Avian flu impacts poultry producers amid Thanksgiving turkey demand

It’s a traditional centrepiece for Thanksgiving dinner tables. But the main course for the feast may not be the easiest to access.

A growing number of commercial poultry operations tested positive for the H5N1 strain of avian flu. Nearly 30 commercial operations have temporarily closed to contain the spread. Alberta is being hit particularly hard.

Turkey farmer Laurel Winter said it’s been a tough year for the industry.

Winter Family. Credit: Winter’s Turkeys

“We have ability to work together to fill gaps and mitigate any supply issues or processing gaps,” Winter said.

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“There’s a risk and it’s been a challenge for producers.”

Due to heightened biosecurity, our camera crew wasn’t allowed to visit the Dalmead, Alberta turkey producer. For 4 generations, the Winter family has been raising turkeys and are working hard this season to minimize shortages.

The Winter farm in Dalmead, AB. Credit: Winter’s Turkeys

“Within our grocery chains, we have the ability to move product. But the examples of shortages might be at those shops that may only have a single supplier,” Winter said. “Overall in Alberta, there’s turkeys available and you may have to try one or two places.”

The unique migratory bird patterns have made Alberta more vulnerable. It’s the reason the Calgary zoo is taking precautions and closing their rainforest aviary.

Flamingo. Calgary Zoo/Submitted

“We have valuable and rare species and we want to make sure we are doing all we can to protect them we are in the fly way we have a lot of migratory birds this time of year,” said the zoo’s veterinarian Dr. Doug Whiteside.

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All birds will be moved indoors, including the Chilean flamingoes, ostrich, and peacocks.

The hope is the number of cases of avian flu start to decline in the next 2-3 weeks.

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