skip to content
Primary navigation

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:

County Chickens Turkeys Combined Losses
Kandiyohi - 1,496,500 1,496,500
Meeker - 694,200 694,200
Renville 2,459,000 204,900 2,663,900
Stearns 202,500 596,200 798,700
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 266,305 9.7% $729
Animal Production and Aquaculture 2,718 25.5% $598
Poultry and Egg Production 1,150 49.5% $654
Food Manufacturing 8,046 17.1% $809
Animal Food Manufacturing 602 35.4% $864
Poultry Processing 3,475 55.7% $722
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.

back to top