Avian influenza is in the news this spring, particularly if you live in the Midwest. I count many friends in the turkey community, and it’s honestly devastating to hear about flock after flock being infected.
These birds aren’t just more numbers or another dot on a map. They represent the hard work, care, and livelihood of families. This quickly extends to workers, small businesses, and the core of many rural communities.
First, let me say you can and should keep buying poultry and turkey with confidence. This outbreak is well monitored, and it does NOT pose a food safety risk.
If you want more info on the disease itself, here’s some quick background.
Normally avian influenza just makes birds slightly sick, and it is a low pathogen strain. The H5 N2 strain plaguing Minnesota represents the first highly pathogenic strain to enter the state. High pathogen avian influenza, in any form, has only been detected in the United States since earlier this year when a case was found in Washington state. The problem is highly pathogenic avian influenza is much more deadly, and if it’s found in a barn any surviving birds must be euthanized to prevent its spread.
It’s thought that migrating wild birds are the main source of the virus, and right now we’re in peak migration season. Wild birds can harbor and spread the virus with few or no symptoms, but domestic turkeys especially face deadly effects from it.
Farmers are doing everything they can with sanitation, barn specific clothing and footwear, and farm traffic to make sure the virus doesn’t get onto their farm, but it’s harder than you might think. Just this morning I saw numerous wild ducks flapping across our road and was reminded of the risk.
Can you imagine if every day you woke up wondering if today might be the day your entire turkey flock would be wiped out? It would be emotionally exhausting, but right now it is reality.
In case you’re wondering, we don’t have any birds at our place right now. We butchered our last birds this winter, and we plan to wait awhile before getting more.
If you do have a backyard flock or even a few egg layers, it’s important for you to protect your birds and help curb disease spread too. I came across a blog post addressing this very topic by On the Banks of Squaw Creek. This is a great, quick read if you have backyard birds.
As the number one turkey producing state Minnesota is especially concerned and effected. A great collection of info and news is available here from MN Turkey Growers if you want to learn more.
I know I’m a dairy farmer, but agriculture in Minnesota is a close-knit community. I care about this outbreak, and I also want consumers to have a place to go with concerns. If you have any questions the resources I’ve shared can’t address, please let me know. I will find you the answer or direct you to someone who can.