Bird flu responsible for death of 700,000 turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving, price hikes expected

Nov 16, 2022, 6:00 PM
Turkey farms litter the Sanpete Valley.  They are especially prominent in Ephraim area. The Utah De...
Turkey farms litter the Sanpete Valley. They are especially prominent in Ephraim area. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food says 700,000 turkeys have been effect by the bird flu. Photo/Keith Johnson

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — Avian influenza colloquially known as bird flu, is wreaking havoc across 18 Utah poultry farms.

“We have seen an impact [of] about 700,000 turkeys in the state of Utah,” the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food’s spokesperson, Bailee Woolstenhulme told KSL NewsRadio.

She says all cases are in central Utah in the Sanpete County area.

“It’s absolutely devastating to these farmers, this is their livelihood and obviously a busy time for them to be selling turkeys,” Woolstenhulme said. “We [Utah Department of Agriculture and Food] have actually deployed the United States Department of Agriculture team and they have been in Utah since August. Their role is to be on the farms helping with depopulation and decontamination” 

The poultry industry produces three million turkeys a year in Utah but is already facing issues with inflated prices.

Bird flu will cause prices to increase

Woolstenhulme is warning consumers that further price hikes ahead of thanksgiving are to be expected.

“We are seeing up to 6% price increases over the entire Thanksgiving dinner, most of those increases are due to the turkey price. We don’t expect to see a lot of shortages come this time; those will be expected in the next couple of months.”

According to the department’s website, the spread is as a result of seasonal migration of waterfowl.

Local producers and bird owners are being urged to monitor their flocks for high mortality rates, nasal discharge, loss of coordination as well as loss of appetite.

If these symptoms are observed, they are being asked to contact the state veterinarian immediately

Bird flu has not shown to be a threat to humans, but it can be transmitted from people to birds.

According to Woolstenhulme, the department is working with producers to create farm biosecurity plans. The department is also reminding the public to maintain hygiene around poultry flocks.

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Bird flu responsible for death of 700,000 turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving, price hikes expected