February 2, 2023


Food loaded for bear

Tyson Foods working with government after lethal bird flu detected in Kentucky flock

A flock of about 240,000 birds in Kentucky owned by Tyson Foods tested positive for the bird flu on Monday in the latest influenza outbreak in the U.S. poultry market.

The infected birds will be culled and will not enter the food system, Kentucky health officials told Reuters.

The news follows an outbreak at a commercial farm in Indiana last week, which resulted in the depopulation of 30,000 turkeys, and two other flocks in Fauquier County, Va., and Fulton County, Ky., which were also depopulated.

Gary Mickelson, a spokesperson for Tyson Foods, told The Hill that the influenza outbreak was at one farm in Kentucky and would not “impact our overall chicken production levels.”

“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,” Mickelson said.

“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,” he added.

The bird flu does not typically spread among humans, but a 2015 Indiana outbreak caused the death of 50 million birds and cost the nation $3 billion to combat.

Kentucky State Veterinarian Dr. Katie Flynn said in a statement on Monday that state officials had quarantined affected areas and activated a response team as they work to curb the spread of the virus.

“We are working diligently to prevent this virus from spreading to other poultry premises,” Flynn said. “We have activated our Avian Influenza response plan and are in active communication with state, federal, and industry partners.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture previously confirmed that the bird flu was present in wild birds last month in several states along the Atlantic Flyway, a major path for migratory birds in North America, and announced an initiative to test wild birds for the virus.

In a statement, Tyson pointed to wild birds as a significant spreader of the avian flu.

“We are actively working with state and federal officials to prevent the spread of the virus,” the spokesperson said. “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.”