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The Agriculture Department has said the avian flu outbreak in the U.S. is the main contributor to low inventory and high prices. Other factors are pandemic-related supply chain issues and holiday demand.
Over the last decade, Bill Gates has invested in multiple companies, including Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, that develop plant-based meat alternatives. He has also been a proponent of chicken farming.
Since 2020, Gates has held the title of the nation’s largest private farmland owner, per The Land Report. As of 2022, he owned 248,000 acres of farmland across more than a dozen states, but this accounts for less than 1% of the total farmland in the U.S.
Billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates has found himself at the center of yet another online conspiracy theory. Some social media users are claiming recent national chicken and egg supply shortages are the culmination of a decadelong plot by Gates.
"2013: Bill Gates invests (in) plant-based eggs, poultry, and meat"
"2021: Bill Gates becomes the largest private farmland owner in the U.S."
"2021-2023: Mass chicken and egg shortages hit American farms"
The Gateway Pundit, a conservative website, shared a similar claim. These posts were flagged as part of Instagram’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
In the past, Gates has invested in companies developing artificial or plant-based alternatives to meat, and he is currently the country’s largest private farmland owner, according to The Land Report, a magazine that surveys the country’s largest landowners annually.
But there is no evidence these investments are linked to a nationwide shortage in chicken and egg products. Gates’ private office, Gates Ventures, told PolitiFact this claim is false.
Eggs have become expensive and scarce in some parts of the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest update shows egg prices rose 60% over the last year.
The cost of chicken has also gone up, although not as drastically. The Consumer Price Index shows chicken prices, including fresh whole chicken and fresh or frozen chicken parts, have increased 11% over the last year.
The main factor driving the nationwide price hikes and supply shortages, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a U.S. avian influenza, or bird flu, outbreak. This, combined with holiday demand and continued coronavirus pandemic-related supply-chain pressures, have affected the market.
More than 58 million birds in hundreds of commercial and backyard flocks have been affected since the bird flu outbreak began in February 2022, the Agriculture Department estimated.
Avian flu is highly infectious, can spread rapidly from flock to flock, and can often kill chickens. Infected flocks are culled to prevent the flu from spreading. By Dec. 31, 2022, the Agriculture Department reported 43 million egg-laying hens had died because of the disease or depopulation.
Lower-than-usual egg inventories near the end of the year, when demand is up from holiday baking, resulted in several successive weeks of record-high egg prices, the department said. Costs are expected to fall in the coming weeks as egg-laying flocks are restored.
News reports from the last several years suggest that Gates has at different times invested in start-ups focused on developing artificial or plant-based alternatives to meat, such as Nature’s Fynd, Hampton Creek, Memphis Meats, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.
Alongside his investments, Gates has also purchased farmland in at least 19 states, according to The Land Report. It reported that as of 2022, Gates owned about 248,000 acres of farmland. The publication named Gates the country’s largest private farmland owner in 2020, 2021 and 2022. But these land holdings account for only a tiny share of the country’s total farmland. The Agriculture Department estimates there are more than 895 million acres of farmland in the U.S., making Gates’ share 0.028%.
In a March 2021 "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit, Gates was asked why he had purchased so much farmland. He responded that it was a decision his investment group made.
"It is not connected to climate. The agriculture sector is important," Gates wrote. "With more productive seeds we can avoid deforestation and help Africa deal with the climate difficulty they already face. It is unclear how cheap biofuels can be but if they are cheap it can solve the aviation and truck emissions."
Gates appears to be pro-chicken farming. In 2016, he wrote on his blog about the benefits of raising chickens, particularly for people living in poverty. He’s also written about the need for more ways to produce meat without depleting environmental resources.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is focused partly on agricultural development to support farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. And many of the American farms Gates owns specialize in produce, such as onions, carrots and potatoes, NBC News reported in 2021.
Social media posts blame Gates’ investments in plant-based meat alternatives and his status as the nation’s largest private farmland owner for triggering the country’s current chicken and egg shortages.
Gates owns less than 1% of the nation’s farmland. He has invested in multiple companies developing artificial or plant-based alternatives to meat, but he supports chicken farming and agricultural development.
The current chicken and egg shortages trace mainly to an avian flu outbreak in the U.S. that began in early 2022 and was exacerbated by holiday demand and supply chain problems, the Agriculture Department reported.
We rate this claim False.
Instagram post, Jan. 22, 2023
Instagram post, Jan. 22, 2023
Gateway Pundit, "Bill Gates Invested In Artificial Eggs a Decade Before Egg Shortage," Jan. 24, 2023
PolitiFact, "What Bill Gates has to do with livestock, lab-grown meat," May 18, 2020
PolitiFact, "Eggflation? Social media post scrambles the facts on high egg prices," Jan. 13, 2023
Various searches on Google and Nexis, accessed Jan. 24, 2023
The Land Report, "Farmer Bill," Jan. 11, 2021
The Land Report, "Bill Gates is About to Change the Way America Farms," Winter 2020 magazine issue
The Land Report 100, Winter 2021 magazine issue
The Land Report 100, Winter 2022 magazine issue
Email exchange, Eric O’Keefe, editor, The Land Report, Jan. 23, 2023
Email exchange, Gates Ventures, Jan. 24, 2023
GatesNotes, "Future of food," March 18, 2013
GatesNotes, "What the plow and lab-grown meat tell us about innovation," Feb. 27, 2019
GatesNotes, "Is there enough meat for everyone?," April 21, 2015
GatesNotes, "Why I would raise chickens," June 7, 2016
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Consumer Price Index," Jan. 12, 2023
U.S. Department of Agriculture, "Avian influenza outbreaks reduced egg production, driving prices to record highs in 2022," Jan. 11, 2023
U.S. Department of Agriculture, "2022-2023 Confirmations of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Commercial and Backyard Flocks," Jan. 18, 2023
U.S. Department of Agriculture, "Avian Influenza," Jan. 18, 2023
U.S. Department of Agriculture, "Farms and Land in Farms, 2021 Summary," February 2022
Reddit, Bill Gates Ask Me Anything, March 19, 2021
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, "Agricultural Development," accessed Jan. 24, 2023
Associated Press, "Bill Gates owns a lot of American farmland, but not the majority," May 2, 2022
Vox, "The controversy over Bill Gates becoming the largest private farmland owner in the US," June 11, 2021
NBC News, "McDonald's french fries, carrots, onions: all of the foods that come from Bill Gates farmland," June 8, 2021
Reuters, "Fact Check-Bill Gates doesn’t own most U.S. farmland; BlackRock doesn’t own most houses," May 5, 2022
CNBC, "Bill Gates and Richard Branson are betting lab-grown meat might be the food of the future," March 23, 2018
CNBC, "Bill Gates bets on growing demand for sustainable foods," May 14, 2015
Bloomberg News, "Lab-Grown Meat Backed by Gates, Tyson Foods Faces U.S. Oversight," June 15, 2018
The Chicago Tribune, "‘Chicken’ nuggets and cream ‘cheese’ grow in trays in a South Side lab. Are you ready for alternative proteins made from a volcanic microbe?," March 24, 2020
NPR, "Why Bill Gates Is Investing In Chicken-Less Eggs," June 13, 2013
CNN, "Memphis Meats raised $161 million to grow meat from cells," Jan. 22, 2020
Insider, "Bill Gates and Richard Branson backed a food startup which grows meat in labs," Aug. 23, 2017
Quartz, "Bill Gates headlines an all-star list of investors pumping $75 million into meatless burgers," Aug. 2, 2017
The Washington Post, "Egg prices haven’t come down with inflation. Here’s why.," Jan. 10, 2023
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