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Bird Flu Fears Halt Poultry Exports From Kentucky

Ecuador and Taiwan became the latest countries to halt imports of poultry meat from Kentucky following a suspected case of the non-lethal strain of bird flu, the U. S. Agriculture Department said April 8.

Russia, the top importer of U. S. chicken meat, stopped shipments of fresh and frozen poultry from the state last week. Similar action has been taken by Colombia and Japan, according to the USDA.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture said April 9 state and federal authorities were investigating poultry breeder Purdue Farms in western Kentucky, adding that the company planned to destroy 20,000 chickens on its farm there.

Purdue Farms spokeswoman Julie DeYoung said the 20,000-bird flock where the avian influenza was discovered has been eradicated.

“The flock has been put down and disposed of. We’ve tested farms in the immediate area and they have tested negative,” DeYoung said. It’s a breeder flock not a meat bird flock. Obviously there isn’t a concern about human safety. It’s really just bird safety.”

She said the farm was a small part of Perdue’s operations. “It’s inconsequential to the business,” she said.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said the strain of avian influence was not harmful to humans.

“This is a pretty common strain. It’s carried in wild birds and it can be passed to domestic birds. But there is very limited risk to humans,” said APHIS spokeswoman Cindy Ragin.

“This is not an alarm. This is basically a way for us to make sure the problem does not spread,” she added.

A poultry export promotion group said it was expecting a quick resumption of exports.

“It was not an outbreak. They just found signs the birds had been exposed,” said Tobby Moore, veterinarian with USA Poultry and Egg Export Council.

Kentucky is the seventh-largest chicken-producing state, and in 2007 produced 305 million broilers weighing 1.7 billion lbs. on a live-weight basis, according to National Chicken Council spokesman Bill Roenigk.

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