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Avian flu causing turkey shortage ahead of holidays, industry says

By The Canadian Press and Greg Bowman

British Columbia’s poultry industry says the avian flu is causing a turkey shortage in the province ahead of the high-demand Christmas season.

Spokesperson for the BC Egg Marketing Board, Amanda Brittain says there is an anticipated 20 per cent drop in available turkeys compared to previous years.

 

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“It’s a terrible time of year for this to have to happen because Thanksgiving and Christmas are the primary consumption events,” she said.

“It’s like prime turkey growing season right now and it’s unfortunate that they are being hit by avian influenza.”

While turkeys may be at risk, Brittain says there are fortunately no shortages of eggs or chicken yet in B.C.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s latest available data shows more than 866,000 birds have been impacted by the H5N1 strain of avian flu this year in the province.

It says there are currently 43 infected premises in B.C. as of Wednesday, while 21 others have recovered.

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Importing turkey for the holiday season could also pose a challenge as the CFIA has set restrictions on imports of live birds, bird products and by-products from U.S. states affected by the flu.

The U-S Centre for Disease Control said in a news release Saturday that more than 49 million birds in 46 states have either died as a result of bird flu virus infection or have been culled due to exposure to infected birds since early 2022.

Avian flu has been popping up in poultry farms in B.C. throughout the year, with a number of farms declaring outbreaks in recent weeks. One veterinarian has called the prevalence of the virus “unprecedented.”

With files from Charlene Co

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