(Bloomberg) — Prices for Thanksgiving turkeys hit a record high, mostly due to an unexpected resurgence of bird flu across the United States.
Avian influenza primarily affects egg and turkey operations in the heart of the country. If only one bird gets it, the entire flock is culled in order to stop its spread. Millions of chickens and turkeys have been killed in recent weeks. As a result, turkey prices are nearly 30% higher than they were a year ago and 80% higher than pre-pandemic costs. Also of concern are whole turkey stocks, which are the lowest in the US winter holiday season since 2006. That means there will be little relief from inflation at Thanksgiving dinner.
“There’s nothing on the horizon to suggest anything new will surface to help ease the supply-side pain of Thanksgiving turkeys,” said Ross Whitman, senior vice president of commodity researcher Werner Barry. The new cases of bird flu are “alarming and include turkeys, which will undoubtedly prove an already consistent scenario”, meaning there may be shortages during the holidays.
The return of the virus is a surprise because there was already a major outbreak of bird flu in the first half of the year that killed more than 40 million birds. The disease usually does not return, because the summer heat eliminates it. South Dakota veterinarian Beth Thompson said the current outbreak, which brings the total death toll to more than 45 million, is likely to get worse as wild birds begin to fly south. Avian influenza is spread by wild migratory birds that crowd over farms and leave tracked droppings in poultry houses.
This year’s bird flu “doesn’t seem to have been affected by this hot summer, and in the next four or six weeks probably we’ll see those migratory birds coming back from Canada, flying over the United States,” he said. “This may increase the viral load present in the environment.”
While the outbreak in 2015 is considered the largest in history, this year’s virus has caused an even greater shock to local markets and prices. This is because it came on the heels of the supply chain shocks from the Covid-19 pandemic and also coincided with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, driving up energy and agricultural prices.
Turkish chicken is priced at $1.82 a pound this week, according to Orner Barry, compared to $1.42 last week and $1.01 before the pandemic. Meanwhile, wholesale prices for eggs were $3.62 per dozen as of Wednesday, the highest ever, up from the previous record of $3.45 set earlier this year, according to John Brunkel, CEO of the company. Egg Innovations, one of the USA’s largest producers. Free egg domain. Consumers have seen the price of eggs in grocery stores triple this year, while turkey has risen by a record 60%, according to a Cuban report.
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The unconscionable return of bird flu raises concerns that such outbreaks will become more common. That could mean constantly rising prices for eggs and turkey. The economic costs are also huge. The last major outbreak in 2015 cost $3.3 billion to recover from. That number has already been exceeded by this year’s outbreak, Kobank said. With factors such as rising labor and feed costs, it will take longer for their flocks to rebound, causing prices to continue to rise, according to the report.
“We are likely to enter a new phase where the disease is endemic as in Europe, this is probably a new norm because there are many wild birds carrying it,” Brunkel said. “We could enter a new world for the poultry industry.”
For small farmers, just one case of bird flu can completely eliminate surgery. Thisseldown Farms in Hicksville, Ohio, raises 2,000 organic chickens annually and sells them directly to families in the area. A nearby poultry producer in northwest Ohio had to cull three million chickens this month.
“It’s terrifying to think this could start with a random bird, and the next thing you know, you have your own millions of birds to clean up,” said James Jacobs, the farm owner. “if [my chickens] I had bird flu, it would wipe out my entire operation. definitely.”
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