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Women in Ag: The Effects of Avian Flu on Eggs and Poultry
I'm back after a bit of a self-imposed hiatus. As much as I love to write blog posts, sometimes life and work just get in the way and I don't have time to do everything I want to do. I'm sure many of you - if not most of you - can relate!
We're still focused quiet heavily on avian influenza here in the Midwest. In Minnesota, we haven't had a new case since June 5, so we're all incredibly grateful for that. In fact, we have over 32 farms impacted by the virus that have signed agreements to restock their farms with birds. That's a relief - albeit a different kind of stress, as well - to farmers who want to get on with the business of raising their birds!
Now the poultry industry is working on pulling information, epidemiology, best practices, and research together that will help us prepare for any future waves of the virus. While we hope and pray the next migratory season is quiet (avian influenza can be carried by wild birds/waterfowl), we need to be ready in case more cases crop up.
Most consumer questions right now are focusing on supply and pricing of poultry products. That certainly makes sense. In fact, while research from the American Egg Board shows that two thirds of Americans still haven't noticed any recent news about avian influenza, those who have want to know how it's going to affect them in the grocery store.
Here's what I know:
Eggs - The spring outbreak of avian influenza hit the egg layer industry pretty hard, reducing the number of egg-laying hens by 12% and creating a temporary shortage. As a result, egg prices are rising. Please know, however, that egg farmers are working hard to manage this situation and make sure consumers will continue to find eggs - a great value for high-quality protein - in supermarkets and in restaurants.
Turkeys - Avian influenza hit Minnesota's turkey industry with a vengeance but also reared its ugly head on turkey farms in states like Iowa and South Dakota. However, from a national perspective, this put only a small dent (just 3% or so!) in overall U.S. production - which stands at more than 240 million turkeys in over 25 states on an annual basis. This means there will be available supplies of turkey, and Thanksgiving will not be an issue.
Chicken - Avian influenza hasn't hit any broiler (meat-type) chicken farms as of yet.
It's important to remember that eggs, turkey, and chicken remain 100% safe to eat. Avian influenza is a bird health issue, not a food safety issue. In fact, poultry with avian influenza on affected farms are prohibited from entering the marketplace.
I hope this clears up a few questions you may have about avian influenza and poultry products. My best advice is to support these hard-working poultry farmers by continuing to buy turkey, eggs, and chicken. They've been through a lot over the past few months, but these farmers are a resilient bunch, and they are doing whatever they can to keep their birds healthy and safe.
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