An outbreak of the deadly strain of bird flu is quickly spreading across the U.S. The risk to humans is low, but bird flu could wreak havoc in the nation’s poultry industry ahead of Easter.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced on Wednesday that highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was detected in five new states.
- A non-commercial, mixed-species backyard flock (non-poultry) in Berkshire County, Massachusetts;
- A non-commercial, mixed-species backyard flock (non-poultry) in Johnson County, Wyoming;
- A commercial poultry flock in Johnston County, North Carolina;
- A non-commercial, backyard chicken flock (non-poultry) in Franklin County, Ohio;
- And a backyard chicken flock (poultry) in Kidder County, North Dakota.
According to Bloomberg, USDA data shows the bird flu has been found in 23 states in flocks totaling about 17 million birds up and down Mid-Atlantic and Northeast and across the Midwest.
On Mar. 21, the official figure for culled chickens and turkeys stood around 12 million. Infected flocks have been culled to mitigate spreading, and USDA has implemented an A.I. surveillance program to look for the disease in commercial poultry operations.
Since the HPAI spread is recent, there’s no telling when it will abate. The last outbreak, in 2015, resulted in the culling of 50 million laying hens across 15 states, pushing the prices of chicken and eggs higher.
Ahead of Easter, a dozen of Grade A Eggs are priced around the $2 mark and set to move higher.
Retail prices are at the highest in five years for springtime.
Chicken breast prices are at new highs, averaging around $3.81 per pound at U.S. supermarkets.
Bloomberg reports top foreign buyers of US poultry could soon balk at purchases.
“Top buyers such as Mexico, China and Cuba could bring in less poultry following the discovery in North Carolina, a major producer of chicken and turkeys,” said Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council in Tucker, Georgia.
The most significant concern is the continued spread of HPAI at commercial poultry farms as wild flocks migrate across the country. This could continue pressuring poultry prices higher that would feed into record-high food inflation.