The persistent bird flu outbreak, which began in 2022 has led to the slaughter of nearly 5 million poultry, turkeys, and other birds this year. However, that is far less than last year’s number, so consumers haven’t seen as much of an impact on egg and poultry prices.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that nearly 58 millions birds were slaughtered in the first year of the outbreak. Department of Agriculture reported that 4.6 million birds were killed last year, in the first outbreak year. Although this decline is good news, it is also a sign that the virus is still able to spread and infect poultry.
Bird flu is a problem because it is highly contagious, spreads easily through wild bird droppings and nasal discharges by wild birds and mutates with time. Farmers are unable to control the virus despite their best efforts.
Denise Heard, veterinarian with the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, said that “the industry is on high alert”.
Bird flu cases have been predicted to increase as geese, ducks and other migrating birds begin their winter migration south. These cases have mainly appeared on farms in Minnesota and Iowa, along the main flyways of migrating bird species. The majority of these cases only involve tens or hundreds of thousands of poultry, but last week, 1.2 million chickens and geese at an Iowa egg farm as well as 940,000 birds at a Minnesota egg farm were slaughtered after the virus was discovered.
Only a small percentage of the flock has been affected by the disease this year. This allows prices to drop closer to the levels they were at before the outbreak.
In January, the average price of eggs in the United States was $4.82 per dozen. This is more than twice the $1.93 charged per dozen a year prior to the first confirmed case of bird flu in Indiana. According to the latest figures released on Tuesday, they stayed at $2.07 a dozen.
Turkey and chicken prices have also increased over the last two years. However, bird flu was not the only cause. Feed, fuel, and labor costs all rose as part of widespread inflation which weighed down the entire economy.
According to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price data, the average price of a chicken per pound has risen steadily from $1.62 in 2022. In October, the price per pound was $1.93. It had been $1.86 just a year earlier. The bird flu has not affected chickens raised to be meat because the industry is centered in the Southeast where there are fewer cases and they don’t have as much time before being killed.
Retail turkey prices don’t follow the same pattern, but USDA data shows that wholesale frozen turkeys averaged $1.15 a pound in October. This is down from $1.79 a pound last year and $1.35 pound the year before. Many of the turkeys for this year are already stored in cold storage. So, even if the virus spreads to more farms, the holiday supply will not be affected.
The National Turkey Federation trade group also points out that many retailers offer deep discounts on turkeys in order to encourage customers to buy their other Thanksgiving fixings from their stores. This could mean even lower prices for consumers.
Jada Thomson, agricultural economist at the University of Arkansas, said: “We are in a great spot for Thanksgiving Turkeys.” “I believe there will be much relief during the holiday season.”
The sharp decline in bird flu cases was due to a combination of factors. The USDA’s finding of a sharp drop in the number virus cases among wild birds is perhaps the most significant. This suggests that some ducks or geese are developing immunity. Farmers also increased their efforts to prevent the virus from spreading by tightening biosecurity practices.
Farmers go to great lengths to ensure that workers shower and change before entering barns. They also sanitize trucks when they enter the farm, and invest in different sets of tools for each barn. Some farms even installed laser systems and upgraded their barn ventilation to deter wild birds.
Heard stated that the biosecurity issue was of paramount importance.
USDA reports that the government has spent $757 million on the response to this outbreak, with the majority of the money going to farmers who had to destroy their flocks. The industry is estimated to have suffered another $1 billion of damages due to lost sales, among other things. However, the total cost has not been calculated.
The outbreak in this year is larger than the one that occurred in 2015, which killed 50 million chickens and Turkeys in 15 States. However, it is less expensive because the industry and the government have learned their lessons from the previous experience.
Officials claim that bird flu is not a serious health risk. Cases of human infection are rare, and infected poultry is not allowed to enter the food supply. Cooking poultry and eggs at 165 degrees Fahrenheit will kill viruses.
Bird flu vaccines may be developed in the future but are not yet practical. Export markets may not accept vaccinated poultry, each bird would need to be injected individually, and expensive testing would be required.
It’s not financially feasible at the moment. Not just in terms of trade, but also the administration, surveillance and cost involved.