MONUMENTAL PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Avian Flu Spreads To 16 American States – Claims 32 MILLION BIRDS; Egg, Turkey And Meat Price Spike!

Turkeys at a Minnesota poultry farm in 2012 appear in this photo from Bethany Hahn. Midwestern states are struggling to contain a virulent strain of
bird flu that has doomed millions of turkeys and chickens since March. (Bethany Hahn via AP)


May 13, 2015 – UNITED STATES
– The fast-spreading avian flu virus was confirmed for the first time in Nebraska, at a commercial egg-laying farm that housed a flock of 1.7 million chickens, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday.

The case in Dixon County, Nebraska, brings the number of states affected by the outbreak to 16, and the U.S. tally of birds that have either died or will be killed to 32 million.

The U.S. poultry and egg industry has been grappling for months with the biggest outbreak on record of avian influenza in the United States.

Authorities do not know how the H5N2 virus reached the Nebraska farm. The property has been quarantined and the flock will be culled, USDA said.

“Unfortunately, Nebraska has joined a long list of states currently dealing with highly pathogenic avian influenza,” said Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

Nebraska farmers and state regulators have voiced growing concern about the virus spreading from neighboring Iowa, where more than 24 million birds from 39 farm sites have been affected.

The worries recently prompted one Nebraska landfill owner to turn down business from a poultry farm in Iowa, whose owners were seeking a place to dispose of a culled flock due to avian influenza, said Brian McManus, spokesman for the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.

“Some people from our agency met with the landfill owner. We had voiced some concerns about the hazards of transporting poultry carcasses right now, because of the risk of spreading the virus,” said McManus, who declined to identify the name of the landfill. “Right now, transporting those birds is an option we discourage.”

HEIGHTENED CONCERNS

The continuing spread of the highly contagious H5 virus is worrying to farmers and investigators, who have hoped that warmer spring weather would help lower the number of infections in birds and curtail the virus’ spread.

But the outbreak has shown few signs of waning so far. On Monday, a strain of avian flu that had previously been found only in the Western United States cropped up in an Indiana backyard poultry flock.

The H5 strains in the current U.S. outbreak pose a low risk to human health, experts say, and no human infections have been identified so far.

There have been three strains of H5 identified in North America in this outbreak.

In addition to Nebraska, other states with the H5N2 virus are Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin. The virus has also been identified on farms in British Columbia and Ontario, Canada.

The highly pathogenic H5N8 strain had been found in California, Idaho, Indiana, Oregon and Washington. The Canadian authorities also have confirmed the H5N1 strain was found in British Columbia, Canada. – Yahoo.

How the worst avian flu outbreak in U.S. history is costing you money

The outbreak of avian flu that some experts are calling the worst in U.S. history has claimed more than 32 million birds in 16 states. And it’s beginning to take its toll at the grocery store as well.

The cost of a carton of large eggs in the Midwest, where the disease has had the biggest impact, jumped 17 percent in the past month, the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile turkey prices, which were expected to fall this year, have risen between 3 and 10 percent, depending on the cut of meat.

But shoppers are most likely to feel the flu’s effects when buying processed products that include eggs as ingredients, like cake mix and mayonnaise. In Iowa, where most eggs go to these types of products, more than 40 percent of the state’s roughly 60 million egg-laying chickens have been killed by the disease or authorities working to prevent it from spreading.

The price of those eggs has jumped 63 percent in the past 3 weeks, commodity market analyst Rick Brown told the AP

The rapidly worsening outbreak has killed more birds than any other incidence of avian flu, researchers at the University of Illinois reported last week. First detected among a tiny backyard flock in southern Oregon, it reached the Midwest in early March and has since devastated the region’s poultry industry. Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin have all declared states of emergency in response to the outbreak. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that Nebraska had become the 16th state hit by the virus — a flock of 1.7 million chickens is the first to be infected in the state.

According to the USDA, the virus is being spread by wild geese and ducks, which carry the disease without appearing sick. Though two strains of the virus are currently circulating among wild and domestic flocks, the vast majority of deaths have been caused by a strain called H5N2, the USDA reported. This “highly pathogenic” form of the disease can wipe out huge flocks in a matter of days, but poses little risk to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Still, the agency urged people to avoid contact with sick or dead birds and noted the slim chance that the disease could jump into humans.

The number of confirmed cases represents a fraction of the 8.7 billion birds slaughtered in the U.S. each year, the University of Illinois researchers pointed out. Even among the country’s 360 million-bird laying population, which has been hit the hardest, only about 1 in 20 hens has been infected — a significant portion, but not enough to drastically affect the nation’s egg supply.

The outbreak has raised alarms in countries that import U.S. poultry. China, South Korea and Angola — three of the top 10 markets for American poultry — have imposed total bans on imports from the U.S., Reuters reported last month.

But the biggest impact has been on affected farmers, who have had to cull their entire flocks in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading. Once a flock has been destroyed, the farm must be quarantined, scrubbed and disinfected before it can be repopulated with birds, according to the Sioux City Journal.

“The stress level is very high among all my farmers at this point,” Gretta Irwin, executive director of the Iowa Turkey Federation, told the Journal. “Whether you have the virus and have to deal with the emotional grief of losing your flock of turkeys, or if you don’t have the virus and you’re worrying about those who do and what happens next.” – Washington Post.

Egg, turkey meat prices begin to rise as bird flu spreads

This Nov. 25, 2014, file photo, shows eggs for sale in a Des Moines,
Iowa, grocery store. Prices for eggs and turkey meat are edging up
as the bird flu in the Midwest claims an increasing number
of chickens and turkeys. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Prices for eggs and turkey meat are rising as an outbreak of bird flu in the Midwest claims an increasing number of chickens and turkeys. Market experts say grocery stores and wholesalers are trying to stock up on eggs, but there’s no need to worry about having enough turkeys for Thanksgiving.

The cost of a carton of large eggs in the Midwest has jumped nearly 17 percent to $1.39 a dozen from $1.19 since mid-April when the virus began appearing in Iowa’s chicken flocks and farmers culled their flocks to contain any spread. Neighboring Nebraska reported its first case of bird flu Tuesday, affecting 1.7 million chickens at an egg farm in Dixon County.

A much bigger increase has emerged in the eggs used as ingredients in processed products such as cake mix and mayonnaise, which account for the majority of what Iowa produces. Those eggs have jumped 63 percent to $1.03 a dozen from 63 cents in the last three weeks, said Rick Brown, senior vice president of Urner Barry, a commodity market analysis firm.

Turkey prices, which had been expected to fall this year, are up slightly as the bird flu claimed about 5.6 million turkeys nationwide so far. About 238 million turkeys were raised in the U.S. last year.

The price of fresh boneless and skinless tom breast meat primarily used for deli meat has risen 10 percent since mid-April to $3.37 a pound, a USDA report said Friday. Frozen hens in the 8- to 16-pound range, those often used for home roasting, were up about 3 percent to $1.06 a pound.

Egg supplies are falling short of demand, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has indicated, and Brown said egg buyers such as grocery stores and wholesalers are trying to stock up for fear that another large farm with millions of chickens will be stricken – causing prices to spike higher.

“We’re starting to see a little bit of that demand increase, and the sellers are reluctant to give clients too much more than they normally have because they know what’s going on and they don’t want to be caught short either,” he said.

The number of Iowa chickens lost exceeds 26 million, the vast majority of which lay eggs for food use. That’s about 41 percent of the leading egg state’s layers and about 8 percent of the nation’s laying hens. That many chickens would lay more than 500 million table eggs a month. For comparison, Iowa chickens laid 1.4 billion table eggs in March, before the disease struck. U.S. egg production for March stood at 7.42 billion table eggs.

Some companies are beginning to notice the impact of fewer eggs. Cereal maker Post Holdings Inc., which bought egg products supplier Michael Foods last year, said in its May 7 quarterly earnings report that about 14 percent of its egg supply has been affected by the bird flu outbreak. Post estimated the impact at about $20 million through the end of September.

Michael Foods primarily supplies extended shelf-life liquid and precooked egg products and eggs used in food ingredients.

The poultry industry can replenish the supply of chickens more quickly than beef or pork industries can rebound, but it still takes time to rebuild a flock.

“They’re going to have to phase in replacing those flocks so they can get them get back into a laying schedule that results in a more even flow of eggs, and that’s going to take six to nine months,” said Tom Elam, an agricultural economist and poultry industry consultant.

It takes about four months for a hatched chick to be old enough to begin laying eggs, and it will typically be productive for about two years, Elam said. Many of the hens dying from the disease are younger and no pullets had been planned to replace them yet, Elam said. More than 350,000 pullets have been lost to bird flu – a very small portion of the 50 million egg-type chicks hatched in March, but it compounds the replenishment problem.

While new bird flu outbreaks are occurring in the turkey market – Minnesota, the nation’s leading turkey producer, has 4 million confirmed dead birds so far – Elam said cold storage stocks and the number of hens still on farms suggest turkeys will be available for Thanksgiving.

“Anybody who wants a Thanksgiving turkey is going to be able to get one,” he said. “They may have to pay a little more for it but we’re not going to have national stock-outs for Thanksgiving turkeys, yet.” – AP.

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