The claim: Post implies egg and chicken shortage is linked to Bill Gates
A Jan. 23 Instagram post (direct link, archived link) shows a screenshot of a tweet.
"2013: Bill Gates invests (sic) plant-based eggs, poultry, and meat," reads the tweet. "2021: Bill Gates becomes the largest private farmland owner in the U.S. 2021-2023: Mass chicken and egg shortages hit American farms."
Some social media users took the post to mean that Gates was behind the chicken and egg shortage.
"Bill is a M u r d e r e r," reads one comment.
"Yea this guy is not working in our best interest," reads another comment.
The post generated over 2,000 likes in less than a week. A Jan. 22 Instagram post with the same claim from conservative commentator Benny Johnson received over 82,000 likes before it was corrected.
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Our rating: Missing context
The implied claim here is wrong. Agricultural experts say the avian flu outbreak, which began in February 2022, is the primary driver behind the decimation of egg-laying flocks and mass egg shortages on American farms. Gates is not tied to either of these events.
No link between egg shortages and Bill Gates
Gates has invested in plant-based eggs, poultry and meat, though the exact years of his investments are unclear. NPR reported in 2013 that he invested in Eat Just - formerly called Hampton Creek Foods - a startup with an egg substitute product made of mung bean protein and other ingredients. He also invested in Beyond Meat, a plant-based meat startup that includes alternative chicken products, according to a 2018 article in The Telegraph.
It is also correct that Gates became the largest private farmland owner in 2021, according to Land Report 100, an annual survey of the nation's largest landowners.
However, the post's implication that Gates was behind the mass egg and chicken shortages in American farms is wrong, according to Wendong Zhang, an assistant professor at the college of agriculture and life sciences at Cornell University.
Contrary to the post's 2021 date, Zhang said the egg shortage did not begin until February 2022, when the avian flu began spreading among birds through saliva, feces and nasal secretions.
Fact check: No link between RNA and chickens laying fewer eggs, experts say
Zhang said the flu has not resulted in a shortage of broiler chickens that are raised for meat. However, the avian flu killed over 43 million egg-laying hens between February and December of 2022, according to the Department of Agriculture.
"The flu is still affecting birds and hasn't yet gone away, so bird flu is resulting in a shortage of hens that lay eggs for human consumption," Jacqueline Jacob, poultry extension project manager at the University of Kentucky, told USA TODAY in an email.
There's no evidence in the post or anywhere else that Gates has any connection to the avian flu.
Egg inventories were 29% lower in the final week of December 2022 than at the beginning of the year from this outbreak, according to the Department of Agriculture. The egg industry is also dealing with unresolved supply chain issues from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Washington Post.
As of 2022, Gates owned almost 248,000 acres of farmland, according to The Land Report. The Department of Agriculture estimates that there are over 895 million acres of farmland in the U.S., making Gates' portion account for less than 0.1%.
Gates has written about the benefits of raising chickens, noting that they are a good investment and easy to take care of. He also announced plans in 2016 to donate 100,000 chickens to poor nations to end poverty, according to Reuters.
USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.
PolitiFact and Lead Stories also debunked the claim.
Our fact-check sources:
Jacqueline Jacob, Jan. 30, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Wendong Zhang, Jan. 30, Phone interview with USA TODAY
NPR, June 13, 2013, Why Bill Gates Is Investing In Chicken-Less Eggs
The Telegraph, Nov. 17, 2018, Bill Gates-backed veggie burger start-up Beyond Meat set for New York listing
The Land Report 100, April 2021, Bill Gates
The Land Report, Jan. 17, Bill Gates Responds Regarding His Farmland
USA TODAY, April 29, 2022, Worried about bird flu? Here's what it is, what to know about its symptoms
Department of Agriculture, Jan. 11, Avian influenza outbreaks reduced egg production, driving prices to record highs in 2022
The Washington Post, Jan. 10, Egg prices haven't come down with inflation. Here's why
Department of Agriculture, accessed Feb. 2, Farms and Land in Farms 2021 Summary
Reuters, June 8, 2016, Philanthropist Bill Gates to donate 100,000 chicks to fight poverty
GatesNotes, June 7, 2016, Why I would raise chickens
PolitiFact, Jan. 25, The Bill Gates egg shortage conspiracy isn't all it's cracked up to be
Lead Stories, Feb. 1, Fact Check: NO Evidence Linking Bill Gates To Egg Shortage In US
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: No link between Bill Gates, egg and chicken shortage
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