For our first blog post of November, we wanted to begin to focus on Thanksgiving and specifically the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table – the turkey! Many news outlets have been reporting on a shortage of turkeys and how that is impacting the prices and availability of the turkeys in the grocery stores.
We wanted to take some time to discuss one of the causes of the shortage and pricing increases – avian influenza (more commonly known as avian flu or bird flu). We turned to one of our local partners, Merlin from Sensenig Turkey Farm, with a few questions about the avian flu. All of the smoked turkeys and smoked turkey breasts that we make at Stoltzfus Meats are made with local turkeys that we purchase from Merlin and Sensenig Turkey Farm.
We hope that reading this interview gives you more information about the avian flu, the challenges it’s creating for poultry farmers this year, and why we would recommend ordering your turkey as soon as possible.
Q: What should we know about avian influenza?
A: First of all, it is a virus, and this virus is able to mutate. Since it can mutate into so many genes/strains it is a considered an infectious disease that is required to be reported. This virus is NOT recognized as, or considered to be a food safety concern, since normal cooking will achieve total lethality to this virus. Rather, it is an infectious disease that challenges live production and creates an economic impact.
Q: How does the avian influenza affect birds, and how does it spread?
A: It is lethal to Gallinaceous birds, which include chickens and turkeys. It is spread by infected carrier birds, such as wild waterfowl. When there is a presence of wild waterfowl, it becomes possible for the disease to spread as the environment around these waterfowl becomes contaminated. It can be carried via humans, rodents, and insects, from the outdoors to the domestic poultry that people keep.
Q: How is avian influenza detected?
A: Testing. Symptoms include morbidity, decreased water and feed consumption, and death. When there is a sharp increase in mortality it can be an indication to test for Avian Flu. Pennsylvania’s laboratories are the front line for detecting samples that are positive. The National laboratory will then confirm the specific gene sequencing of the positive sample.
Q: If a farmer detects an outbreak of avian influenza, what are the next steps?
A: The first step after suspecting that something is wrong is to make a call to the Pennsylvania Dept of Ag and report sick birds. This is known as making a sick bird call. Testing will follow. If a positive is confirmed, the remainder of the flock will be euthanized. The premises of an infected flock will be quarantined until thorough cleaning and disinfecting has been accomplished which usually will take a period of at least 90 days.
Q: How can the general population help to slow the spread of avian influenza?
A: Do NOT feed wild waterfowl or make it convenient for wild waterfowl to reside in areas where poultry are present.
Q: As we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas, how do you anticipate avian influenza to affect the supply of available turkeys for holiday meals?
A: The supply will be very tight. Place your orders early and be flexible if some sizes are not available. Most people will be able to secure their Thanksgiving turkeys.
We hope this was helpful information for you! As we mentioned, if you are planning to order a turkey for Thanksgiving this year, we would recommend ordering as soon as possible. If you’d like to place an order:
-to be shipped to your home, you can do that here through our website
-to pick up at our Intercourse, PA location, Monday – Saturday you can call 717-768-7287, option 2
-to pick up at our New Castle, DE location, Thursday – Saturday you can call 302-322-5034, option 5