Turkey prices are down. A deadly bird flu could change that

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New York

Egg and turkey prices are down. However a deadly bird flu continues to be threatening poultry flocks, turkey specifically.

So whereas breakfast is more likely to keep low-cost, prepare for costlier turkey sandwiches.

Final yr, a extremely pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) devastated hen flocks, with egg-laying hens bearing the brunt. The virus was one cause for the huge spike in egg costs. However this yr, the virus acquired off to a gradual begin, permitting egg provides to bounce again.

The present outbreak of HPAI hit the US in February 2022, and ripped by means of poultry farms throughout the nation. By the tip of final yr, about 60 million birds had been killed due to the virus. As we speak, the total tally is up to about 68 million, an indication that the illness has slowed, however not disappeared, in 2023.

After a largely virus-free begin to the yr, instances began ticking up within the fall. Up to now month, Iowa farms have killed over 2.8 million birds this season as a result of virus. Earlier in November, an Ohio egg farm slaughtered over 1.3 million birds due to the flu.

“Nationally, we’re seeing an uptick, once more, in some industrial premises throughout the US,” Dennis Summers, Ohio’s state veterinarian and chief of the state’s division of animal well being, mentioned in an interview with CNN.

Within the US, the lethal flu has been spreading as wild birds migrate south this fall. In the event that they land and mingle with yard flocks, or their droppings are dragged into hen coops, the virus could be launched to industrial operations, he defined. When that occurs, your complete flock is eradicated to stop the illness from spreading.

The autumn migratory season lasts till concerning the finish of the yr, mentioned Summers. So what occurs within the subsequent month or so will assist decide the trajectory of the virus this yr, and what number of extra farms are affected.

“We’re simply hoping that we are able to maintain on and get by means of this till [the flu] mutates to a non-pathogenic kind,” Summers mentioned. “After which we are able to go from there.”

Even with thousands and thousands of chickens culled at egg farms, there are many eggs this yr, mentioned Emily Metz, president and CEO of the American Egg Board, a farmer-funded group that’s devoted to growing US demand for eggs.

“We’ve seen some small-scale outbreaks to date on just a few egg farms,” she mentioned. “Provide is powerful, there’s loads of eggs.” According to the USDA, egg manufacturing was up 4% in October in comparison with final yr.

NORTH BERGEN, NEW JERSEY - FEBRUARY 16: Eggs are displayed in a grocery store on February 16, 2023 in North Bergen. Egg prices rose 8.5%, according to inflation data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics the prices soared 70.1%. (Photo by Leonardo Munoz/VIEWpress)

As egg provides bounced again, costs have fallen, declining about 22% within the 12 months by means of October, in keeping with knowledge from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To this point, most of the egg farms the place the virus was detected — and birds culled — have been targeted on promoting whites and yolks to meals makers, slightly than to grocery shops as shell eggs, famous Ryan Hojnowski, egg market analyst and reporter for Urner Barry, which publishes market data.

With these components in thoughts, costs are unlikely to skyrocket once more. “It doesn’t look like there’s a catalyst as of proper now, this second, that’s pointing towards a worth motion being something what it was like final yr,” mentioned Hojnowski. Nonetheless, he mentioned, it’s a “very fluid scenario.”

However on the subject of turkey, worth hikes are on the horizon.

This yr, turkey costs were low ahead of Thanksgiving — partially as a result of turkey farmers anticipated an outbreak within the spring that didn’t actually occur, boosting turkey provides, defined Matt Busardo, poultry market reporter at Urner Barry. However the uptick of chicken flu instances has hit turkey farms laborious, and threatens to tighten provide in groceries this spring.

“Simply since October, there’s been two and a half million or so [turkey] losses,” Busardo famous. Most of these have been “meat birds,” he mentioned — headed to slaughter to be become deli meat, slightly than offered as entire birds for roasting.

“When spring rolls round and everybody needs to get their turkey golf equipment… that’s what this impacts essentially the most,” he mentioned. “What we’re seeing now reveals that there’s going to be a tighter provide come spring.”

The deli aisle is seen during a tour of a new Amazon Go store in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. Amazon.com Inc. is taking aim at the urban grocery store, launching a version of its cashierless convenience store beefed up with baked goods, meat, produce and household items. Photographer: Chona Kasinger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In Minnesota, roughly 1.6 million birds have been killed within the final month, lots of them turkeys.

The state is very susceptible to chicken flu due to its geographic properties, famous Ohio’s Summers. “There’s tons of lakes and ponds up there,” he mentioned. “So these migratory birds will land.”

If migrations gradual — as they very nicely might, due to frigid climate — infections might additionally, lessening the impression on turkey provide and costs.

Generally this yr, “chicken losses … are fairly small relative to final yr’s impression,” mentioned Christine McCracken, senior animal protein analyst at Rabobank. “Nonetheless, timing is the whole lot,” she mentioned, noting that there might “be some spot shortages and/or pricing volatility given the potential for regional losses.”

Busardo doesn’t anticipate turkey costs to surge as a lot as they did with eggs. Partially that’s as a result of in contrast to eggs, turkey isn’t a kitchen staple — that means that increased costs might simply lead individuals to skip that turkey sandwich in any case.

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