Turkeys Will Cost More Because 6 Million Died During Bird Flu Outbreak

By Washington Post
Posted on 10/26/22 | News Source: Washington Post

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, turkey farmers from California to Pennsylvania are watching in horror as a virulent new strain of avian influenza wipes out their flocks, killing birds practically overnight and forcing hundreds of thousands more to be euthanized to prevent further infection.

The rampant spread of the virus has already eliminated more than 6 million turkeys nationwide, about 14 percent of the nation’s total turkey production, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. It is leaving farmers short of their usual offerings and pushing up prices for those that remain, forcing consumers already walloped by inflation to pay an additional 20 percent or more per pound for Thanksgiving turkeys compared with prices last year, according to several estimates.

“It’s devastating,” said Heidi Diestel, whose family has operated the Diestel Family Turkey Ranch in Sonora, Calif., for four generations. The ranch lost more than 150,000 turkeys in August after avian influenza infected one of its flocks.

Although they still have several other healthy flocks of turkeys on separate farms, Diestel said certain turkey varieties they have been accustomed to selling, such as their “petite” brand that are only six to 10 pounds, were pretty much wiped out.

“It was really a sad time to see that many birds pass to something that was that aggressive and that uncontrollable,” Diestel said. “It definitely did impact our availability and supply, and we won’t have everything for everyone like we normally do, we just won’t.”