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February 15, 2022

Tyson Foods says bird-flu outbreak will not affect production levels

Around 240,000 chickens at a farm in Kentucky owned by Tyson have tested positive for a highly lethal form of the disease.

By Andy Coyne

US meat major Tyson Foods is adamant production levels will not be affected nor safety compromised after the company’s chicken supplies were hit by an outbreak of avian flu.

Around 240,000 chickens at a farm in Kentucky owned by the firm behind the Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm brands have tested positive for a highly lethal form of bird flu, spreading an outbreak first detected in poultry in Indiana last week.

Kentucky officials said the broiler chickens in Fulton County were infected with the same H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic avian flu as the turkeys in Indiana, identified by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

Birds from the infected flock will be culled and will not enter the food system.

In a statement sent to Just Food, Tyson confirmed the outbreak, saying: “We are actively working with state and federal officials to prevent the spread of the virus. Although the origin of the infection is not known, avian influenza has been found in migratory wild birds which play a significant role in spreading the disease.”

Announcing the bird-flu outbreak in Indiana last week, USDA said it was the first confirmed case of the particular strain of the disease in commercial poultry in the US since 2020. But to allay consumer fears, it added: “Avian influenza does not present an immediate public health concern. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States.”

But following the announcement, China and South Korea have limited poultry purchases from Indiana due to the outbreak. China has now blocked imports from Kentucky too.

In its statement, Tyson said: “Tyson Foods is prepared for situations like this, and we have robust plans in place, which we are now executing. This includes heightening biosecurity measures at other farms in the region, placing additional restrictions on outside visitors and continuing our practice of testing all flocks for avian influenza before birds leave the farms.

“Tyson Foods’ chicken products remain safe: the USDA confirms that avian influenza does not pose a food-safety risk to consumers in poultry that is properly prepared and cooked.

“Because the affected farm in Kentucky is only one of the thousands of farms that raise chickens for our company, the situation is not expected to impact our overall chicken production levels.”

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