Bird flu may take fresh turkeys off the menu

Annie Baxter Jun 5, 2015

Bird flu continues to rear its head at poultry and egg production farms in the U.S. It’s cost farmers about 45 million birds, more than 7 million of them turkeys. That’s causing real economic pain in big turkey-producing states like Minnesota.

But the National Turkey Federation says only a small share of the 240 million turkeys produced nationally have been affected.

“Do the math, and that’s about 3 percent,” says Keith Williams, the trade group’s spokesman.

Williams says there will be plenty of birds for Thanksgiving — a whole bunch are already frozen and stockpiled in regional warehouses.

“Most people buy frozen turkeys for convenience to use at Thanksgiving,” he says. “Those have largely already been produced.”

But Tom Elam, president of the agriculture consultancy FarmEcon.com, says the picture could change if bird flu keeps ravaging flocks.

“If that continues for another month or two, we are going to see some shortages of Thanksgiving and holiday birds,” he says.

Experts thought warmer weather would snuff out the bird flu virus, but that hasn’t happened yet.

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