Why your holiday turkey will cost you more this year (not just inflation)

The bird flu epidemic that is ravaging the global poultry herd is now the worst outbreak since records began, sending egg prices skyrocketing, threatening free-range chickens and potentially affecting chickens. long-term effects on animal health.

Traditionally, bird flu season begins in October each year when birds migrate Hut infected feces or saliva upon leaving cool areas of the Northern Hemisphere. But this year, cases spread rapidly during the warmer months, increasing the virus load and leading to mass destruction.

According to the World Organization for Animal Health, poultry losses since October are nearly 70 percent higher than last year, reaching 16.1 million on December 1. Before that, more than 138 million birds had been affected. died in the 12 months through September, more than the previous five years combined, WOAH said.

In America, UK and other places it leads to concerns about seasonal specialties such as Roast turkey dinner for Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, poultry is a staple of the global diet, and culling is limiting the supply of products ranging from eggs to foie gras, exacerbating food inflation that has hit the budget of the United States. consumers this year. With a vaccine likely for many years to come, farmers are sounding the alarm.

Mark Gorton, chief executive of Norfolk Poultry Tradition in east England, said: “This is a lot worse than it was before and I think it took people by surprise. has lost 15% of the herd since September. “This is not just a UK problem, it is a worldwide problem. We have to sort it out.”

About 35 billion birds are stocked on farms around the world to meet the demand for affordable chicken. duplicated since 1999. This year’s cost of living crisis has boosted sales even further as consumers digging beef for cheaper options.

Outbreak accelerates as farmers grapple with increase energy and food bill. Nan-Dirk Mulder, animal protein expert at Rabobank, said that with growth pressures, global poultry production is likely to grow by around 1 per cent this year and next, outpacing historic growths. is 2.5%.

Avian flu can spread to tractors or feed and is often fatal to domestic birds, flocks of which are destroyed as soon as one becomes ill. Chickens raised for meat may be less susceptible to infection when they are slaughtered after about six weeks, but larger, older birds and laying hens have been severely affected.

As a result, the cost of retail eggs in the US doubled in a year, with the price of ready-made chicken in the UK increasing by a quarter or more.

It is also a global problem. Malaysia are importing eggs, as feed prices force local farmers to cut back. French farm lost millions of ducks to flu in the past two winters. based in Minnesota hormonal food Corp. – raising turkeys for lunch and roasting – production is expected to decline at least early next year. Importers often restrict purchases from infected areas.

“It is a big problem above all else,” said Birthe Steenberg, secretary general of the European poultry group AVEC.

Gregorio Torres, chief scientific officer at WOAH, said that as of 2021, cases have not decreased in the summer as usual. Wild birds are now permanently infected, affecting the health of the birds they encounter and increasing the risk to endangered species.

Researchers are trying to understand why, says Torres. The virus is evolving rapidly, potentially becoming a more effective source of disease transmission. The agency is also studying whether climate change plays a role as temperatures warm and migration routes change.

However, this virus is not new and warnings have been issued before. Highly pathogenic avian influenza has been found in most continents since the mid-1900s. A wave that originated in Asia in 2003 caused widespread damage, but that number has been eclipsed by damage in 2021-22.

Although it can spread to humans, it is still there rarewith less than 10 people infected with the H5N1 strain are now predominant as of 2018, according to the World Health Organization.

Controlling the movement of wild birds is a difficult feat, and the scale of recent outbreaks underlines traditional biosecurity. measureFrom limited access to barns and washing vehicles to rapid destruction, “it’s not enough anymore,” says Steenberg.

“The bird flu in 2022 going into 2023 will be different than before,” said John Brunnquell, chief executive officer of Egg Innovations, a large US free-range egg producer.

Not everywhere has been hit hard. Even so, outbreaks in Asia have been relatively under control this time around. Japan detected the case earlier and about two dozen farms were infected in South Korea, which faced with lack of eggs in recent outbreaks.

Brazil, the world’s top chicken transporter, remains flu-free, but recent cases have emerged in Ecuador and Colombiapromote moves to prevent the virus from crossing borders.

Consumers are increasingly picky, often choosing free-range products from birds that are free-range rather than caged. While that’s better for the animals, it increases the risk of encountering infected wildlife.

As a result, the virus has harmed many outdoor growers. England lock all poultry in November, and 40% The number of free-range turkeys raised for Christmas dinner in the UK has been killed. The country has also faced lack of eggs.

The disease can escalate quickly, Gorton said, with herds sometimes being euthanized four to five days after initial signs appear. Farms need deep cleaning after infection and can be left empty for up to six months. Rapid removal could also have a financial impact: UK government only indemnify for the birds that were healthy when the officers arrived.

Despite all this, the infection has not stopped and indoor farms are still unclear. Farmers are looking for new solutions, from screens to shield poultry outdoors to warding off passing birds with bright lights.

AVEC’s Steenberg said vaccine trials are underway in Europe, estimating it could take at least two years for a vaccine to reach the market. Any vaccine requires international agreement on standards and requirements to be adjusted as strains evolve.

For now, high prices are supporting poultry farmers, although the risks are rapidly increasing, Mulder said. He said: “Demand is there but supply is not. “It’s an extremely volatile market.”

Egg Innovations’ Brunnquell said that in the past, bird flu had only happened once. “The flu comes and the flu goes. Now, it’s not leaving.”


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