A bird flu virus that’s sweeping across the country is rapidly becoming the country’s worst outbreak, having already killed over 37 million chickens and turkeys.

Under the guidance of the federal government, farms must destroy entire commercial flocks if just one bird tests positive for the virus, to stop the spread. That’s leading to distressing scenes across rural America. In Iowa, millions of animals in vast barns are suffocated in high temperatures or with poisonous foam. In Wisconsin, lines of dump trucks have taken days to collect masses of bird carcasses and pile them in unused fields. Neighbors live with the stench of the decaying birds.

The bird flu crisis is hurting egg-laying hens and turkeys the most, with the disease largely being propagated by migrating wild birds that swarm above farms and leave droppings that get tracked into poultry houses. That’s probably how the virus contaminated egg operations in Iowa, which produce liquid and powdered eggs that go into restaurant omelets or boxed cake mixes. Further north under the same migration paths lie Minnesota’s turkey farms, which supply everything from deli meats for submarine sandwiches to whole birds for the holidays.

Prices for such products are soaring to records, adding to the fastest pace of U.S. inflation in four decades. The supply deficits triggered by the flu also come as world food prices reach new highs.

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