Bird flu impacting turkey supply ahead of holiday season

Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 6:14 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Across the U.S. the poultry industry continues to deal with an outbreak of avian influenza that began early this year. According to the Virginia Poultry Federation, there have been 250 cases in commercial flocks and 330 in backyard flocks nationwide.

“Fortunately in Virginia, we have only had a handful of backyard cases not in areas close to commercial poultry industry areas and we have not had any commercial flocks in Virginia affected by Avian Influenza,” said Hobey Bauhan, President of the Virginia Poultry Federation.

Heading into the holiday season the flu has put a dent in the supply of turkeys with around 8 million being lost which is about three percent of the national market. However, despite the shortage, Bauhan said there should still be plenty available for Thanksgiving.

“The way the production cycle works, a lot of the turkeys destined for Thanksgiving are already in the warehouses and in route to the grocery store or in the grocery stores in frozen form,” he said.

Still, with the shortage, Bauhan said it’s not a bad idea to get your Thanksgiving grocery shopping done early.

“Figure out what size turkey you’re going to want and do some shopping up front. Typically you’re going to be able to find what you’re looking for but try to be flexible if you don’t find the exact size you’re looking for,” he said.

Bauhan said that the supply of chicken has not been near as affected by the bird flu as the turkey supply. He also emphasized that avian influenza is not a concern from a food safety standpoint as any birds that contract the virus do not enter the food chain.

Poultry farmers around the valley have been practicing strict biosecurity measures throughout the year to protect their flocks from the virus. Bauhan said while they’ve done a good job it’s important to keep those practices going.

“We continue to view it as a significant issue and we’re continuing to promote biosecurity both within the commercial industry as well as among backyard flock owners. If we do what we need to do to protect our birds we can avoid it,” he said.

Bauhan said wild migratory birds remain the largest spreader of the virus.