The highly pathogenic avian flu (HPAI) outbreak in the United States is setting up for a similar situation to 2015 for the turkey market.

In a WATT Poultry Chat interview, Mark Jordan, executive director of LEAP Market Analytics, explains the impacts of the current outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the United States. He said the turkey industry will be more affected than the broiler industry.

Austin Alonzo: Today I want to talk about the highly pathogenic avian influenza situation. How is it affecting the boiler and turkey industries?

Mark Jordan: A lot of things have been referenced in the context of 2015, a fairly recent marker. Early on, it was evident that the broiler industry was taking a little bit bigger hit to its production base compared to then, which was practically negligible. 

Now, there was a lot more trade impacts then. This go-round, there have been some losses. Now in the grand scheme of things, this is still even with a couple million birds and climbing. The total boiler losses are fairly insignificant. In the market impacts, it's hard to parse out that there's much coming from bird flu. Even trade impacts: the evidence is scant that there's much of an impact. 

Dark meat values have been firming, here coming into the springtime period. Breast meat and wing values remained quite elevated. No big shifts in any of these markets to suggest that there are any impacts. So, there on the broiler side things are still relatively normal, even though losses are there and certainly more so than we had in 2015. 

On the turkey side, this is starting to be 2015 redux. What you had then, in very different circumstances, but very similar, you had a turkey breast market that was elevated. Back in 2014, it was elevated. There were issues in the swine herd with PEDv, that it created some strong demand for turkey breasts, prices were already elevated, we ran into bird flu losses in 2015. The market went haywire. It went to nearly $6 a pound. 

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Similarly, the turkey breast market had a very strong showing in 2021, it was already at a pretty elevated plateau. And it actually started to seem like it was reaching a plateau: we went in a sideways direction. For a little context, we're at losses now where we've pretty much knocked out one week's worth of output, which over the last, six or seven weeks, take out one week of that. That's a fairly significant total. 

So, the turkey breast market, again, we started to move in a little bit of a sideways pattern in this time press market around the $4.50 a pound mark. Now all of a sudden, losses (are) racking up and turkey breast prices are moving quickly towards that $5 mark, seemingly very likely to go higher. 

I think one thing to keep in mind is, it's hard to know where we're headed. Exactly what happened in 2015, it gets a lot of reference points just because of its historic nature. It seems obvious at this point that this outbreak is not going to be significantly better, it seems like it's going to be in the ballpark of 2015. It may be a little early to say that it's going to be significantly worse. But it's a very similar event, just very impactful in terms of total losses. Especially for the turkey side. 

One thing to keep in mind is, there's the losses themselves, but we're also getting kind of rumors that there are some pre-emptive measures being taken for farms and plants to kind of idle for a stretch. So that might not necessarily show up as birds that are infected and depopulated directly from the virus but that is lost output. 

So we are looking at a stretch here, especially in the turkey side. That's gonna be very problematic supply-wise in response to this outbreak.

This transcript edited for length and clarity.