Avian flu has killed nearly a record number of birds in the United States

CHICAGO, Oct 18 (Reuters) – Bird flu has killed a record number of chickens and turkeys in the U.S. this 12 months, as farmers battled a pressure of the virus that contaminated wild birds after which unfold the illness. , – officers mentioned.

More than 47 million birds died resulting from infectious illnesses and culling. That prompted export bans, decrease egg and turkey manufacturing and contributed to record costs for staples forward of the U.S. vacation season. The ache will compound the financial ache for shoppers scuffling with rising inflation.

In 2015, the worst US outbreak killed 50.5 million birds, the worst animal well being occasion in the nation.

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US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Chief Veterinary Officer Rosemary Sifford mentioned farmers are coping with a subtype of the H5N1 virus that has endured by way of the summer season when hotter temperatures lowered chicken flu.

A single species, known as the Goose/Guangdong breed, is spreading in Europe, he mentioned in an interview. Europe has been hit by its worst avian flu disaster, killing nearly 50 million poultry.

According to Sifford, officers are discovering the wild chicken species in a wide selection of wild birds, similar to geese, and it seems to be a long-lived chicken. He mentioned the danger of an infection might stay till the summer season of 2023 as they migrate.

The United States is monitoring wild birds for chicken flu alongside 4 migration routes, referred to as flyways, and plans to take action subsequent 12 months, up from the earlier two routes.

“This virus could also be current in wild birds for the foreseeable future,” Sifford mentioned. “It’s undoubtedly totally different.”

The outbreak has contaminated flocks in 42 states since February, greater than double the number from 2015, USDA information present. This summer season, infections have slowed, however not stopped like in 2015.

The persistence of the virus has shocked some producers, who’ve stepped up barn cleansing and safety because it started in 2015.

“Unfortunately, the issues we have carried out have not been sufficient to guard us from excessive viral masses in wild chicken populations,” Sifford mentioned.


Minnesota, the nation’s high turkey-producing state, contaminated two industrial flocks in late August with as much as three months of disease-free exercise, in line with the USDA. The state then noticed extra instances in September.

“To see a rise in August shouldn’t be what one would anticipate,” mentioned Ashley Kohls, government director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.

After an an infection, it takes about six months to decontaminate farms and end turkey manufacturing, Kohls mentioned.

Minnesota-based Hormel Foods Corp ( HRL.N ), proprietor of the Jennie-O Turkey Store model, mentioned it expects chicken flu to cut back turkey manufacturing by way of March 2023.

“We’ve labored actually laborious, nevertheless it’s nonetheless a downside,” Hormel CEO James Snee mentioned at a convention name final month.

Retail costs for contemporary boneless, skinless turkey breasts hit $6.70 a pound final month, up 112% from a 12 months in the past and 14% from the earlier record set in 2015, in line with the U.S. Farm Bureau.

According to the USDA, Turkey’s meat manufacturing is anticipated to drop 6 % this 12 months from 2021 to five.2 billion kilos.

Faced with excessive feed and labor prices, US farmers reduce on manufacturing as income fell. Turkey breast shares in chilly storage have reached record ranges this 12 months, in line with USDA information.

According to Greg Gunthorpe, a turkey farmer in Indiana, grocers, on-line retailers and different consumers have been inspired to search for entire turkeys and breasts. Antibiotic-free turkey breasts are promoting for $7-9 per pound wholesale, in comparison with about $3 earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The turkey market proper now could be the craziest I’ve ever seen,” Gunthorpe mentioned.

Flock infections have brought about export restrictions on U.S. poultry, additional hurting producers. A significant purchaser, China, has blocked birds from all states with confirmed instances, and it’ll take longer to carry the bans, the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council mentioned.

This month, China suspended poultry imports from Arkansas, the third-largest producer of chickens raised for meat, after the state reported its first an infection of the 12 months, USDA information present. State Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward mentioned Arkansas hopes to keep away from the illness.

“The virus has modified,” Ward mentioned. “Hopefully this virus is one of these individuals that can catch hearth in a 12 months and perhaps go quiet once more.”

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Tom Polanzek reporting from Chicago; Edited by Caroline Stauffer and David Gregorio

Our requirements: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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