Hen flu kills near a file variety of poultry within the U.S.

CHICAGO, Oct 18 (Reuters) – A near-record variety of U.S. chickens and turkeys have died on this yr’s outbreak of avian flu, as a special type of the virus than farmers battled earlier than has contaminated extra wild birds that then transmit the illness, officers mentioned.

Greater than 47 million birds have died as a consequence of infections and cullings. This has spurred export bans, lowered egg and turkey manufacturing, and contributed to file costs of the staples forward of the U.S. vacation season. The outbreak exacerbates financial ache for shoppers grappling with hovering inflation.

In 2015, 50.5 million birds died within the deadliest U.S. outbreak, the nation’s worst animal-health occasion so far.

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Farmers are preventing a subtype of the H5N1 pressure of the virus that survived over the summer season, when rising temperatures usually cut back avian flu, mentioned Rosemary Sifford, chief veterinary officer for the U.S. Division of Agriculture (USDA).

The identical subtype, referred to as the goose/Guangdong lineage, is spreading in Europe, she mentioned in an interview. Europe is already struggling its worst avian flu disaster, with practically 50 million poultry culled.

Officers are discovering the subtype in a broader vary of untamed birds, corresponding to geese, than previously and it appears to dwell within the birds longer, Sifford mentioned. An elevated risk for infections might persist till summer season 2023 as they migrate, she mentioned.

The US is monitoring wild birds for avian flu in 4 migration paths referred to as flyways, up from two beforehand, and plans to do the identical subsequent yr.

“This virus could possibly be current in wild birds for the foreseeable future,” Sifford mentioned. “This one is actually totally different.”

The outbreak has contaminated flocks in 42 states since February, twice as many as in 2015, USDA information present. Infections slowed over the summer season this yr however didn’t cease as they did in 2015.

The tenacity of the virus shocked some producers, who’ve boosted cleansing and safety in barns because the 2015 outbreak.

“Sadly what we have achieved in all probability hasn’t been sufficient to guard us from this excessive load of virus within the wild chook inhabitants,” Sifford mentioned.


Minnesota, the nation’s high turkey-producing state, suffered infections in two business flocks in late August after going three months with out circumstances, USDA knowledge present. The state then noticed extra circumstances in September.

“Seeing a spike in August was not one thing that was anticipated,” mentioned Ashley Kohls, govt director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Affiliation.

After infections, it takes about six months to decontaminate farms and resume turkey manufacturing, Kohls mentioned.

Minnesota-based Hormel Meals Corp (HRL.N), proprietor of the Jennie-O Turkey Retailer model, mentioned it expects avian flu to scale back its turkey manufacturing no less than via March 2023.

“We have labored actually exhausting however clearly that is nonetheless a problem,” Hormel CEO James Snee mentioned on a convention name final month.

Retail costs for contemporary boneless, skinless turkey breast reached a file $6.70 per pound final month, up 112% from a yr earlier and 14% above the earlier file from 2015, the American Farm Bureau mentioned.

Turkey meat manufacturing this yr is about to drop 6% from 2021 to five.2 billion kilos, in response to the USDA.

U.S. farmers, who face excessive prices for feed and labor, have been already reducing manufacturing earlier than the outbreak as a consequence of declining income. Inventories of turkey breasts in chilly storage services reached a file low this yr, USDA knowledge present.

Indiana turkey farmer Greg Gunthorp mentioned grocers, on-line retailers and different consumers have referred to as trying to find 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, he mentioned.

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

Infections in flocks have triggered export restrictions on U.S. poultry, additional hurting producers. China, a significant purchaser, has blocked poultry from total states with confirmed circumstances and is taking longer than it ought to to raise the bans, the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council mentioned.

China this month suspended poultry imports from Arkansas, the third-biggest producer of chickens raised for meat, after the state reported its first an infection of the yr, USDA information present. The state’s agriculture secretary, Wes Ward, mentioned he had hoped Arkansas might keep away from the illness.

“The virus has modified,” Ward mentioned. “Hopefully it is a kind of the place the virus will burn itself out after a yr or so and perhaps issues will settle down once more.”

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Reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago; Enhancing by Caroline Stauffer and David Gregorio

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