Bird flu is causing problems across the globe.
More than 52 million birds in 46 states have either died due to a bird flu virus infection or have been killed due to exposure of infected birds since early 2022, according to November statistics from the CDC.
That’s a new record, marking the deadliest outbreak in history.
“This avian influenza has been a real problem because it has lasted such a long time relative to other outbreaks of this particular disease,” said Daniel Sumner, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of California Davis. “It has been particularly hard hitting for eggs and turkeys.”
The risk to humans is low, but humans can spread the virus from one bird to another if the proper preventative measures aren’t taken.
“It is something we’re very sensitive about, moving any of the pathogens between farms,” said Sumner.
This outbreak has caused a fluctuation in the prices of turkey, chicken, and eggs at the grocery store.
“Egg prices have doubled or more than doubled. And broiler (chicken) prices, even when this was hitting the broilers really bad, which is not so much right now, they’ve gone up,” he said.
“Less birds available means higher prices for everyone. Including me because I'm dependent on the industrial system to provide me the birds. Whatever happens to them directly impacts me,” said Ben Grimes, the owner of Dawnbreaker Farms in North Carolina, in an e-mail. He owns a farm of pasture-raised animals including chickens, ducks, turkeys, and pigs. He is dependent on the industrial system to provide birds via the hatchery system.
There’s also the impact on the rural economy level.
“These kinds of outbreaks have effects throughout the economy, so that if you do depopulate the broilers in an area, that affects the feed mill, and that affects everybody else all the way around. Some people lose their jobs,” Sumner said.
“If my birds did get the flu it would be economically devastating. The industrial guys have their birds insured so if they have to exterminate their houses they get some pay out. They'll lose a lot of opportunities for the next few months, but at least they get something. Pastured poultry is un-insurable. So if something happens to my birds, not only are the birds exterminated but I would lose all the money I put into them plus the ability to raise more birds for several months while the farm was under quarantine,” Grimes said.
Since the outbreak is so widespread, Sumner said it could take more vigilance to get rid of the disease and stop the outbreaks.