Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Avian bird flu could lead to Thanksgiving turkey shortage, higher prices

The avian bird flu that has killed 20 percent of poultry flocks could lead to a turkey shortage this Thanksgiving, Jere Downs reports for The Courier-Journal in Louisville. Fewer turkeys mean higher prices for consumers. Louisville restaurant owner Marguerite Schadt said restaurant supplier costs for turkeys have nearly doubled, from 99 cents per pound to $1.79 per pound, leading her to raise her price of a 12 to 14 pound dinner with the trimmings from about $135 to $165.

Grocery stores are also reporting increases of prices, with one local chain saying its turkey prices have risen from $1.10 per pound to $1.40 per pound, Downs writes. While grocery store prices are up, "longer-lived, pasture-raised turkeys are enjoying a renaissance driven by consumers—whether they seek historic taste, are concerned about animal welfare or will pay premium to eat birds raised on organic feedstock."

"Identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last December, the 'HPAI H5N1' bird flu virus does not affect humans like the H5N1 virus in Asia, Europe and Africa," Downs writes. "Instead, the new viral strain wiped out commercial poultry farm flocks in 20 states, felling an estimated 50 million birds. While wild bird droppings introduced the virus, the confined conditions inside factory farms resulted in its virulent spread before the epidemic played out mid-summer." (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign graphic)

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