Tyson Foods on High Alert After Kentucky Chicken Flock Tests Positive for Avian Flu

by Jonathan Howard
(Photo by Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images)

Think about our feathered friends in Kentucky, Outsiders. Tyson Foods is on high alert following positive tests for the bird flu in a Kentucky chicken flock.

The state of Kentucky relies on the poultry and egg industry heavily. As a $1.2 billion business, breakouts of bird flu could do a lot to mess that up. According to the Kentucky Poultry Federation, poultry and eggs are the #1 agricultural and food commodity in Kentucky. In 2014, the state ranked 7th in the nation in chicken production, although production has gone down in recent years.

This goes deeper than just Tyson Foods keeping their chickens healthy enough for consumers. Kentucky’s chicken industry fuels the corn and soybean industry as well. Roughly 25% of all soybean and corn production in the state goes to Kentucky chickens.

Right now, though, the good news is that there aren’t that many cases. There has been one chicken house infected and that is in Fulton County. Fulton rests in the Jackson Purchase, situated on the Mississippi River. Part of the county isn’t even connected to the rest of the state. So, Tyson Foods is looking to crack down on these cases and prevent further spread.

As of right now, Tyson hasn’t taken a big hit in the market. Only down 5% over the last five days, things could be a lot worse for the food giant.

The United States Department of Agriculture did confirm the positive test results from the Fulton County farm. These outbreaks can cause mass death and big issues if they get bad enough. It was just seven years ago in 2015 when over 50 million birds were killed across 15 states. The federal government lost almost $1 billion.

USDA Says That Tyson Foods’ Chickens ‘Will Be Depopulated’

As only a federal government agency could put it, the USDA made a statement about the Tyson Foods outbreak in Kentucky. To put it professionally the agency said, “birds on the properties will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease.” There is a race to find which farms are infected between Fulton County and where it was found in northern Virginia.

Webster County, Kentucky, about 125 miles northeast of Fulton County might have a second case. If that is confirmed, then things could be getting more serious than previously thought. Unfortunately, the case in Virginia was a backyard flock. So it could mean that it is more prevalent, or be a coincidence. Only time will tell.

To top it all off, a turkey farm in southern Indiana had a strain of avian flu. Tyson Foods is going to be upping its “biosecurity measures” in an attempt to protect its birds and product. Right now, the company is saying the product is safe and that they are working with state and federal officials to help prevent spread.