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Avian Flu is a Challenge for Farmers - But Our Food Supply is Safe!
It's been over two months since the very first Minnesota
turkey farm was tested positive for a highly-pathogenic strain of avian
influenza (HPAI). Since that time, the normal workload at our office (Minnesota
Turkey Growers Association) ground to a halt, and we've focused almost exclusively
on doing what we can to battle the virus and help our farmers through this
For me, it's meant taking an average of 11 media inquiries each
and every workday from all over the world - some days it's more, some days
it's less, but I can tell you that vetting this many calls from reporters takes way more
time than even I thought it would, and I've been working with the media for a long time. (And
my boss is a rock star for handling so many interviews - often multiple times a
day - with such a calming professionalism and wealth of knowledge!)
Through it all, I have to say that most of the media
coverage has been fair, accurate, and very sympathetic to the plight of the
farmers who are dealing directly with this; to those in the stressful position of watching,
waiting, and wondering if it will hit their flock; and to the ramifications HPAI has
on the entire poultry industry.
The media, also, has been very good about noting - in most
stories I've viewed or read - that the turkey, eggs, and chicken you purchase in
the supermarket or order in a restaurant are SAFE TO EAT. The Twin Cities media
even reported about a turkey burger feed put on by a group of
legislators - and attended by our governor, Mark Dayton - at the state capitol. Everyone involved wanted to show that
it is safe to eat turkey.
That's why it puzzles me that we hear, at least anecdotally,
stories of people who claim to be afraid of eating poultry. I can't quite tell
if it's the rumor mill running rampant or if it just goes to show that people
only hear or read what they want to hear or read. Probably a little of both.
As long we're talking anecdotal evidence here, let me
provide a positive spin on this. For every story I hear of someone not eating
poultry, I hear twice as many stories of people who want to show their support
for poultry farmers and make sure they are buying chicken, turkey, and eggs.
If there's one thing I can reassure you of, it's that eating
poultry is safe. All flocks are tested for avian influenza and any flocks
identified with HPAI are prohibited
from entering the marketplace. You can rest assured that you don't have to give up
that juicy turkey burger on the grill, egg salad sandwich for lunch, or chicken
fettuccine alfredo at your favorite Italian restaurant.
And poultry farmers wouldn't want you to. Won't you help me
spread that message?