All poultry shows have been canceled at the Minnesota State Fair and county fairs across the state this year as authorities try to stop the spread of bird flu. The Minnesota Board of Animal Health is also prohibiting birds from being included in swap meets, exotic animal sales and petting zoos.
Across the country, about five million turkeys have been affected by the avian flu. Four million of those were in Minnesota.
Poultry producers in the nation’s top turkey state are taking extra steps to protect their flocks after a devastating strain of bird flu was confirmed at two Minnesota farms in as many days last week, a disease that had already slammed the doors shut on some key export markets.
Minnesota turkey farmers are boosting protective measures after a lethal strain of bird flu wiped out 15,000 birds in about a week. The H5N2 strain of avian influenza devastated a flock of turkeys at an unidentified Pope County farm. Officials say it’s unlikely to infect humans.
Just in time for Thanksgiving, the nation’s top turkey producer is coming up a little short. Butterball, based out of North Carolina, told retailers that orders for fresh 16-pound turkeys and larger have been cut in half. The shortage is nationwide. Woody Hunt, manager of Rainbow Foods in St. Louis Park, says 40 years ago, Butterball was like the “Cadillac of turkeys.” “Everybody wanted a Butterball, and if you didn’t have a Butterball on your table you couldn’t brag to your neighbors that you had the best turkey,” Hunt said.
Minnesota officials estimate more than 105,000 turkeys and up to 1,500 cattle were lost due to the recent heat wave.