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Avian Flu Impact

by Luke Greiner
June 2015

For years Minnesota has been the top producer of turkeys in the country, raising about 45 million in 2014. Central Minnesota is pivotal in these production efforts providing more than 31 percent of turkey inventory and 38 percent of the chicken inventory for the entire state at any given time throughout the year. Poultry and egg production and processing provides thousands of jobs in Central Minnesota.

The H5N2 Avian Influenza is impacting Central Minnesota more than any other region in the state. As of June 5 our state has lost almost 8.9 million birds on 107 farms to this ugly virus. Over 61 percent of the current turkey and chicken losses have occurred in Central Minnesota. The result of this outbreak is visible across rural Minnesota where eerily quiet poultry barns remain idle as piles of decomposing carcasses lie covered by manure and sawdust, "slow-cooking" from the inside out. Once cooked, the remains can be used for fertilizer.

A large complication to this highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is the relative newness of the strain. The HPAI H5 strain was first confirmed just 6 months ago in December. According to the USDA the first detection in Minnesota was reported on March 4. Since then 23 counties have confirmed cases of HPAI.

Current losses in Central Minnesota are limited to four counties:




Combined Losses

















Source: Minnesota Board of Animal Health

Current guidance from the USDA controls the restocking efforts of infected facilities to prevent cyclical viral infections. After a farm receives confirmation of the virus the entire site is tested. All birds associated with an infected barn are destroyed, and then the farm begins a minimum 28 day composting phase including at least two heat cycles to completely destroy the virus. Following the composting stage, a 21 day cleaning and disinfecting phase is initiated. Unfortunately, these time frames are a starting point and actual timeframes could be longer. All environmental tests must come back negative and all flocks within the control zone must be negative before restocking efforts can begin. Depending on desired processing weight chickens reach slaughter size in 5 to 9 weeks and turkeys take between 16 and 22 weeks.

The exact impact of the avian flu is not quite clear at the moment because employment statistics carry a degree of lag time in this rapidly changing situation. It will take at least six months before accurate employment data is available to evaluate the extent of this ongoing issue. Most recent poultry slaughter data from this April actually show an increase in processing in Minnesota compared to last April by 16 percent for turkeys and 2 percent for chickens. Although slaughter counts are not limited to birds raised only in Minnesota it is probable that the majority of animals slaughtered in Minnesota are also raised in Minnesota.

Industries most relevant to the poultry industry shown in the table below illustrate the high concentration found in Central Minnesota.

Central Minnesota Poultry Related Industry Statistics,

3rd Qtr. 2014

Industry Title

Central Minnesota

Percent of State Employment

Average Weekly Wage

Total, All Industries




Animal Production and Aquaculture




Poultry and Egg Production




Food Manufacturing




Animal Food Manufacturing




Poultry Processing




Source: DEED, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program

While these industries represent those directly engaged in the poultry industry many more industries are and will begin to feel the pinch until the outbreak can be eradicated.

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