Avian influenza outbreak could lead to turkey shortage for Christmas

Avian influenza outbreak could lead to turkey shortage for Christmas

The latest outbreak of avian influenza at Fraser Valley poultry farms means the supply of B.C. turkeys is down about 20 per cent, according to the B.C. Poultry Association.

“Because of avian influenza it’s making it really hard for turkey farmers and processors to meet the demand for turkey at Christmas,” said Amanda Brittain, spokesperson for the Poultry Association.

Grocery stores say they’re being told by suppliers there could be a slight shortage so they’re urging people to buy early.

“A lot of frozen around but the fresh birds are going to be the ones that are probably going to be a bit more touch and go as we get closer to Christmas,” said Craig Cavin, South Island Operations Manager for Country Grocer.

“If you want to make sure you have a turkey then grab one as soon as you can.”

At Saanichton Farm their 50 fresh turkeys are already accounted for. Owner Bryce Rashleigh says from ramped up transportation rules to increased health and safety measures, avian flu is having an impact even on small Vancouver Island poultry farmers.

“You want to be as careful as you can to avoid it and it’s rather hit and miss because a lot of it is brought in by wildlife that fly through our area, land in our area,” he said.

“In some ways I’ve likened it to the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve lived through where it’s kind of similar we just had to learn to be more careful and be more sanitary and just take more protocols in how we distance from each other, it’s no different for the animals.”

Many poultry farms in the Fraser Valley are also still recovering from last year’s atmospheric river so it’s all pushing costs up for farmers and that likely means for consumers as well.

“If you want to have that turkey you may have to pay a bit more this year because that supply might be a bit of an issue,” said Cavin.

It’s just one of several impacts you may notice at the grocery store in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

“They may not be able to find the size of the bird they want they may not be able to find one at all,” said Brittain.

READ MORE: Christmas tree harvest underway on Vancouver Island as shortage looms

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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