Avian influenza that led to the culling of 414,000 turkeys and chickens at southern Indiana commercial poultry farms is having little effect on prices of turkey and eggs at grocery stores, says Philip Paarlberg, Purdue University agricultural economist.
Estimates of quarterly prices show changes by plus or minus 1 percent, which are within fluctuations normally seen in these markets, according to Paarlberg. "With these price changes there will be very little impact on consumers," he said. "At least that is how it stands now."
Some countries have restricted imports of poultry and poultry products following the Jan. 15 announcement of confirmation that highly pathogenic avian influenza infected a southern Indiana poultry flock. Canada has recognized the established control zones in accordance with the zoning agreement with the United States. Mexico, Japan and Cuba have restricted Indiana poultry products while the European Union has U.S. county-level restrictions. South Korea has imposed restrictions on the entire United States.
Those restrictions have tended to offset the loss of production and to lower prices - ever so slightly - in the U.S. because of the decreased demand for exports.
Turkey prices have been largely unaffected because the 258,000 birds destroyed represent only about 0.1 percent of the turkeys produced nationally. The 156,000 laying hens that were culled also represent a very small fraction of layers raised nationally.
Any additional incidents of avian influenza H7N8, the strain that led to the culling, could result in greater price fluctuations depending on conditions such as a significant disruption of supplies or further declines in poultry exports.
While the financial impact on the total poultry industry from the situation in Dubois County is small, Paarlberg said the incident will have a major impact on the farms involved and the community, including the disruption of producers’ livelihoods and any temporary reduction in jobs of workers.
"So the impact is primarily local," he said.
Dubois County is Indiana's largest turkey-producing county, growing 1.4 million birds annually. Indiana ranks fourth in the nation in turkey production.
Turkeys at 10 sites infected with H7N8 avian influenza were destroyed. Besides the one flock with highly pathogenic avian influenza, eight flocks had low pathogenic avian influenza, and testing of one other flock was continuing.
The laying hens were not infected with H7N8 but were culled because the laying facility was near an infected barn of turkeys and were considered at risk of contracting the virus.
The Indiana Board of Animal Health said this week that testing will continue for several more weeks in the area to ensure than no more H7N8 strain remains.
The Centers for Disease Control considers the risk of illness to humans from the strain to be very low. It says properly cooked and handled poultry is not a source of infection for avian influenza viruses.