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Fewer turkeys means higher prices for holiday birds

Nationwide, outbreaks of avian flu this past spring caused producers to destroy millions of birds, reducing supply and raising prices.

Published: November 4, 2022 11:35am

Updated: November 5, 2022 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

There are plenty of turkeys available for holiday celebrations this year, but expect to pay more for them.

Blame the avian flu. Nationwide, outbreaks of avian flu this past spring caused producers to destroy millions of birds. The result is 2% fewer turkeys in this fall’s inventory.

“The disruption in the supply has certainly driven up prices,” Tasha Bunting of the Illinois Farm Bureau told The Center Square.

Last year the average price for a turkey hen was $1.42 a pound. This year the price is $1.82 a pound. Illinois is not a major poultry producing state and has been fairly lucky with the number of avian flu outbreaks, Bunting said. Cases peaked in the spring in Illinois and the number of cases of infected birds this fall was low.

Turkey and poultry producers have been on high alert for signs of infected birds all year, Bunting said. Farmers have implemented biosecurity measures and have been working with their veterinarians.

“Thankfully, that seems to be working here in Illinois,” she said. “Fortunately, we have not seen a whole lot of infected birds this fall.”

That has not been the case in other poultry producing states across the heartland, she said. In recent weeks, producers have had to destroy millions of hens and turkeys.

Avian flu is spread by wild birds who fly over domestic poultry farms during migration. If one bird in a flock is discovered to be infected, the whole flock must be culled. The result is a smaller inventory of market ready turkeys this fall.

There is no indication that this year’s avian flu outbreak is a concern for public health, Bunting said.

“There have not been any human cases of avian influenza detected in the U.S,” Bunting said. “There is no associated risk for human illness from consuming poultry or turkeys, or from handling birds that might be infected.”

She reminds people to always use proper cooking and handling protocols when preparing turkey, poultry and eggs.

“Use a thermometer to make sure the meat reaches a safe internal temperature,” she said.

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