This Thanksgiving Be Grateful The Turkey On Your Table Avoided Avian Flu

This Thanksgiving, Be Grateful The Turkey On Your Table Avoided Avian Flu

This Thanksgiving Be Grateful The Turkey On Your Table Avoided Avian Flu
This Thanksgiving Be Grateful The Turkey On Your Table Avoided Avian Flu

Thanksgiving season 2022 could be the first of many ravaged by bird flu as the worst-ever U.S. outbreak has yet to be contained.

Here’s a conversation starter if there’s a lull around the Thanksgiving table, or any table: More American birds were killed this year by avian flu than turkeys slaughtered for holiday feasts.

It wasn’t even close. More than 46 million turkeys are expected to be cooked this Thanksgiving, while a record 50 million-plus birds died or were killed due to flu. It’s the worst-ever outbreak of the virus the U.S. has ever seen.

The epidemic has gotten so bad that the U.S. Department of Agriculture warned that big turkeys — over 20 pounds — would be tough to find.

The punchline: Avian flu isn’t done decimating the U.S. poultry supply. Industry experts thought the outbreak would burn off during hot summer months, but it didn’t. Since the virus has persisted, farmers are now having to grapple with the reality that bird flu could be a part of everyday life with little end in sight.

“Avian flu has been an economic disaster for the business and the consumer,” investment banker Walter Knish, who tracks the market for HTS Commodities, told wagonstocktita. “It’s still wreaking havoc.”

Some turkey farmers are questioning whether they should stay in business; insurance policies typically don’t cover avian flu. It’s especially tough for producers along the migratory fly zone, in places such as northwestern Minnesota, because that’s one conduit for the spread of the virus. When the smaller operators start dropping out of the industry, the bigger players end up with more control, Kunish said.

“Avian flu is one ingredient in a perfect cocktail of variables working against the poultry industry,” Kunish said. “One ingredient to recalibrate an industry that has been pushing away from smaller producers and more towards a corporate environment.”

About 8 million turkeys, or roughly 4% of the nation’s supply, have died of avian flu or needed to be culled to arrest its spread.

The virus has added fuel to the worst inflation in 40 years. At supermarkets, the average price per pound has risen 12% compared with last year, to just over $4.60 a pound, according to NielsenIQ data, which scans prices and receipts across the majority of U.S. food retailers. The American Farm Bureau says 2022 will be the most expensive Thanksgiving since Plymouth.

The top turkey-producing state, Minnesota, has been among the worst-hit. Jennie-O, the second-largest turkey producer in America, is based there and expects production to drop 30% compared with 2021. Top producer Butterball, based in North Carolina, said earlier in the season that their flock hasn’t been as badly damaged. About half a percent of Butterball’s turkeys have gotten sick — accounting for around 3% of total bird flu cases nationwide.

“There’s no real relief in sight,” said fourth-generation farmer Will Harris, who raises flocks of turkeys, chickens and ducks across 3,200-acres of pasture in Georgia.

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