COVID-19 causing poultry industry concerns, euthanization of chickens

Regional News

FILE- In this Aug. 10, 2015, file photo, turkeys stand in a barn on turkey farm near Manson, Iowa. The nation’s first case of highly pathogenic bird flu since 2017 has been found in a South Carolina turkey operation, leading to the killing of more than 30,000 birds. Even a single case of bird flu causes alarm in the poultry industry, which was devastated by a large outbreak in 2015 that led to the killing of millions of chickens and turkeys. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

February 04 2022 08:00 am

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STATEWIDE, Pa. (WHTM) — Dairy farmers aren’t the only ones feeling the pain of the pandemic. Several Pennsylvania poultry farmers have made the tough decision to euthanize chickens.

The real meat of the issue begins with the processors. Two poultry processing plants in Pennsylvania were temporarily shut down after employees tested positive for COVID-19, which slowed down work and left farmers with limited options.

“Any type of disruption can cause major issues,” said Dr. Gregory Martin, Penn State Extension Educator.

COVID-19 has been quite the interruption to a time sensitive industry.

“In the case of egg production, the chicks that are going to be put into these hen houses are ordered two years in advance,” Martin said.

Which means new chickens are coming in, but with processors slowed down, farmers have nothing to do with their current batch of birds.

“When they’re down, that just does a domino effect, and sometimes they can recover, but if it’s some prolonged absence, then that causes problems,” Martin said.

Those problems led to “more than two” Pennsylvania farms euthanizing chicken, according to Martin. He said euthanization is always the last resort and a substantial loss for farmers.

“They look at every opportunity they can to repurpose these animals, and in the current situation, they were unable to,” he said.

Now, it’s up to processors. Martin said beefing up safety practices for workers is key.

“Adding additional safety factors into place — both with extra equipment, extra safety devices,” Martin said.

He said poultry wasn’t hit as hard with the loss of restaurants and schools as other industries.

“By having the plants come back up and the workers returning to work in safety, I think it will do a large amount of good,” Martin said.

We can all do a little good by refraining from panic buying. Martin said he’s visited many farms statewide, and there are plenty of eggs and chicken to go around.

“We need to thank the truck drivers and the farmers and the plant workers, too, because they’re feeding the rest of us,” he said.

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