May 13, 2022
Continuing from yesterday with our conversation, Are the Bauman Birds at risk of Avian Flu?
We covered the need for clean, fresh air for flocks.
Now, we’ll explore what risk migratory fowl pose to pastured poultry health.
While the chicken corporations mass euthanize birds by the hundreds of thousands they deflect the narrative by pointing to the “backyard” farmers who keep their chickens outside and are exposed to potential dropping from infected wildfowl flyovers.
Did you ever wonder how the geese poo can get inside those big ole giant chicken barns? Even the Bauman Birds on pasture have shelters with roofs. Plus, a goose doesn’t actually excrete much while in flight.
Apparently, a tiny bit of poo can cause a big problem… And getting little umbrellas for our birds isn’t really going to help much, because those giant roofs haven’t ensured the safety of the millions of poultry that have died this year as a result of Avian Flu.
Is poultry with outdoor access actually at increased risk of contracting Avian Flu? Perhaps not. Exposure doesn’t equal Illness. As the Bauman Birds spend both waking and sleeping hours in grass-floored, outdoor shelters, they get exposed to a number of things. Good bugs and bad bugs come swirling through the air, and this wide exposure builds their immunity diversity. In contrast, birds raised strictly indoors are highly susceptible to a suppressed immune system from their crowded, dusty environment.
As we all learned from the last two years of COVID-19 and countries’ attempts at “contact tracing”, the way that a virus travels through the air is so mysterious that scientists can rarely determine just where OR how infected people were exposed to the virus. With that said, we do assume that exposure to Avian Influenza will be occurring, the best way we can meet this quandary head-on is to ensure our flocks are not stressed and have good nutrition, fresh air, and exercise. What better way to accomplish this than putting them out on pasture? We do this daily!
Unfortunately, other egg companies have taken a different view and are attempting to shield the birds from the natural world. Many of the national egg companies claiming to be “Pasture Raised”, (which is an unregulated marketing term) have now locked their birds inside. Yet the cartons still carry the pasture-raised and outdoor access claim.
National Egg Supply and Soaring Prices
Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of little birds die from this ugly Avian Bird Flu. 37.5 million, as reported by the CDC.
But, I doubt that any of the egg corporations’ finance departments are crying. The flock loss is compensated by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service as a disease response. While the $5.30 per head paid out by the government doesn’t come close to covering the $20 per hen cost for small producers, it is much more meaningful to the large egg corporations, whose bird cost is much lower due to their higher volume. There’s additional compensation for the cost of euthanization and disposal, as well.
It’s not the subsidies, though, that concern us. We’re very grateful for the federal compensation in times of disaster. It’s the unfortunate link between owning such a large percentage of market share and the effects of supply and demand.
This bird flu could be a lucrative event for Egg Corporations. Remember the Ground Beef crisis of 2020? How did the retail prices go so crazy high, yet the price the farmers were receiving went to record lows?
Of the 37.5 million poultry infected over this current Avian Flu, the USDA records that a little more than 26.5 million were egg-laying hens. That’s 5% of the national flock size. Yet, retail prices have risen by 50%.
Of course, that pencils out:
When grain prices are at a 20-year high, reducing the number of corn-eating hens for the same sales numbers? Much improved profit margins for the shareholders!
It seems the last two years have been full of illustrations highlighting the weaknesses of consolidation in our food supply chains.
So, what can we do to increase our family’s food security? If you’re tired of seeing empty shelves and having every news headline result in price hikes at the grocery, then….
Here’s Rosanna’s Recommendation:
Buy direct from small, local farmers.
If all the hens on my farm got wiped out by a disease, disaster, or simply the retirement of that enterprise, I doubt you’d notice a difference in the Kansas City area egg prices or supply. If my flock becomes infected with a disease, it’s unlikely to affect another farm’s birds, due to the distance between our farms. (If there’s not a host nearby, the virus can’t remain viable for long.)
Small farms are more insulated from the effects of geopolitics, world economics, and viral disasters. Protect your family’s food supply by supporting resilient small farmers.
Eggs are selling faster than ever: the rising prices in stores have caused some supermarket shoppers to check out the farmers markets. Attendance at our farmers’ markets is at all – time highs!