Bird flu infects US poultry flocks. It could also affect the price of chicken

Ready for more bad news about infectious diseases? There is an outbreak of bird flu making its way through American poultry flocks. If the virus continues to spread, it could affect poultry prices – already higher amid widespread inflation.

In California

  • Quarantine and additional entry requirements have been in place since late February for “all live poultry, hatching eggs and poultry products” from identified areas in 17 states where outbreaks have been detected.

  • The California Department of Food and Agriculture says these measures are necessary to prevent highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) from entering the state where it could “devastate poultry in California.”

Chicken breast prices this week averaged $3.63 a pound in U.S. supermarkets, down from $3.01 the previous week and $2.42 at the same time last year, according to the Department of Health. ‘Agriculture.

This week, an outbreak was confirmed in a commercial flock in Nebraska, resulting in the destruction of 570,000 broiler chickens. In Delaware and Maryland, more than two million commercial poultry birds have been affected.

In South Dakota, an outbreak last week killed 85,000 birds. An outbreak confirmed on March 14 at a commercial farm in Wisconsin has resulted in the death of more than 2.7 million laying hens.

The latest USDA data shows 59 confirmed bird flu sites in commercial and backyard flocks in 17 states since the start of the year. This figure includes chickens, turkey and other poultry.

The USDA identified a case of avian influenza in a wild bird in mid-January, the first detection of the virus in wild birds in the United States since 2016. Wild birds can transmit the virus to commercial and low-income flocks. court. By February 9, the virus had been identified in a commercial herd in Indiana.

There have since been hundreds of confirmed cases of wild birds infected with bird flu.

The last major bird flu outbreak in the United States was from December 2014 to June 2015, when more than 50 million chickens and turkeys died from highly pathogenic bird flu (HPAI) or were destroyed to stop its spread. .

During this outbreak, chicken breast prices rose 17%, according to agricultural data firm Gro Intelligence. But at the same time, prices for chicken cuts destined for the export market have actually fallen due to import bans on US poultry in countries like China, South Korea, Cuba and Mexico. So the cost of leg quarters, for example, fell by 18%, according to the data. Poultry prices – especially for eggs and turkey – have been affected for years, the company reports.

The impact on prices this time depends on the spread of the flu

Whether the 2022 bird flu will affect the price of eggs and poultry depends on its extent, says Ron Kean, a poultry science expert in the Department of Animal and Dairy Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“In 2015, we saw a tremendous increase in the price of eggs,” Kean told Wisconsin Public Radio. “Chicken meat hasn’t been badly affected at this time. We’ve seen a significant loss of turkeys, so turkey prices have gone up. So we’ll see. If a lot of farms contract that, we might see real increases in price.”

What is the risk for humans of this bird flu? Not much so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC’s latest update on March 7, H5N1 avian influenza poses a low risk to the public and is currently “primarily an animal health issue.” The CDC notes that some people may have occupational or recreational exposures to birds that put them at higher risk of infection.

You cannot catch bird flu from eating poultry or eating properly prepared and cooked eggs, the USDA explains. The risk of infected poultry entering the food chain is extremely low, according to the agency, due to its food inspection program and bird flu response plan.

“All poultry products intended for public consumption are inspected for signs of disease before and after slaughter,” the USDA notes, and bird flu causes rapid onset of symptoms in poultry.

For producers who suspect their flock may be affected by bird flu, the USDA has a guide to warning signs, including a sudden increase in bird mortality, lack of energy and appetite, and a decrease in egg production. If a flock is found to be infected with bird flu, the USDA acts quickly – within 24 hours – to help producers destroy the flock and prevent the virus from spreading.

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