A resurgence in bird flu has led to deaths and associated cullings for America’s stock of domesticated turkeys, sending prices sky-high as Thanksgiving approaches.
Bird flu, or highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), is fatal to turkeys. Stopping the spread requires the culling of entire flocks once an infection is detected.
“6.5 million turkeys — roughly 3% of annual production — have been administratively destroyed because of HPAI, including half a million since August 29,” according to an analysis from Gro Intelligence.
The greatest overall losses have been suffered in Minnesota, where 3.2 million turkeys have died or otherwise been culled. South Dakota has the greatest proportional losses thus far, with 1.5 million turkeys purged out of a population of 12 million.
Stocks of whole turkeys have collapsed due to the need for culls, and “prices for turkey hens are nearly 30% higher than a year ago and 80% above pre-pandemic costs,” according to Bloomberg.
Shortfalls are also a possibility due to the loss of animals.
“There’s nothing appearing on the horizon to suggest anything new is going to surface to help ease the supply-side pain for Thanksgiving turkeys,” Russ Whitman, senior vice president at commodity researcher Urner Barry, told Bloomberg.
The USDA reports that, as of Friday, over 45 million animals in commercial and backyard flocks nationwide have been affected, including not only turkeys but chickens and other species.
Recovering the turkey stocks for the future will also be time-intensive.
“Turkey production is a 54-week process. It takes 32 weeks to raise a layer, another month (around 4 weeks) to incubate an egg, and 18 weeks to grow out a Thanksgiving turkey,” according to Gro Intelligence.