Last month, Mark Drayton, Governor of Minnesota, issued an Emergency Executive Order to declare a Peacetime State of Emergency in response to avian influenza which has led to the cull of 3.3 million turkeys in the state.
Minnesota accounts for 20% of turkeys raised in the US, with 30% of those raised in the state sold at Thanksgiving and Christmas. However if a farm is positively diagnosed with avian influenza, the entire flock must be culled and disposed of, and the buildings disinfected which can take up to three months, on top of the four months it takes a chick to mature into a fully grown hen.
Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA) and the Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota (CEAM), said: “The recent findings of avian influenza in turkey and egg-laying hen flocks in Minnesota and several other states are of great concern. We’re going to have fewer turkeys coming out because of this. The question we can’t answer is how much this is going to impact our total system because this isn’t over yet.”
Olson added the epidemic may have repercussions beyond Thanksgiving. “There’s a sense of pride in farmers, in what they do. This is challenging their belief in their ability to raise turkeys because they have not been able to stop the disease, despite them doing everything they can do from a biosecurity standpoint.”