Feb 15, 2022 - News

Tyson Foods confirms bird flu in Kentucky flock

Tyson Foods' world headquarters in Springdale, Ark.
Photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

Tyson Foods, the country's largest producer of chicken, confirmed that highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has infected a flock at one of its contract farms in Kentucky.

  • USDA also said HPAI was found in a backyard flock in Virginia.
  • Last week, the presence of HPAI was found in a commercial turkey flock of 30,000 in Dubois County, Indiana.

Why it matters: If the disease spreads to enough farms in a geographic region, it could impact the production of chicken, turkey and eggs. That could raise consumer prices and impact exports.

The big picture: Tyson Foods said it does not expect the case in Kentucky to impact its overall production.

Flashback: In 2015, a bird flu outbreak in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin impacted the production of table eggs and turkey meat.

  • Though broiler chickens weren't heavily infected, exports dropped by $1.1 billion, or 26%. Egg exports dropped 13% and turkey 23%.
  • USDA estimated the cost to the federal government was more than $1 billion — $879 million to manage the crisis and about $200 million in indemnities for lost birds.

Of note: The USDA says avian influenza does not present an immediate public health concern and that no human cases of avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States.

Context: Certain strains of avian flu are highly transmissible between flocks, which are then euthanized to prevent further spread of the virus.

  • The virus is spread by migratory birds and waterfowl, usually this time of year.

What they're saying: Tyson contracts with approximately 300 farmers in Kentucky.

  • "Tyson Foods is prepared for situations like this, and we have robust plans in place, which we are now executing," the company said in an emailed statement.
  • Plans include additional restrictions on access to farms and continuing to test each flock for avian influenza before it is processed.

Farms where HPAI is found are automatically quarantined by USDA. Tyson Foods did not say how it would euthanize the flock.

Editor's note: Reporter Worth Sparkman formerly worked for Tyson Foods.

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