Christmas turkey: Bird flu impacts BC supply

Nearly half of BC’s turkey farms have recently had bird flu outbreaks, and many have been forced to cull their entire flocks — leading to a shortage of fresh turkeys ahead of Christmas.

When its longtime supplier near Chilliwack saw its flock die from bird flu, Meridian Farm Market had to scramble to fill thousands of preorders for fresh turkey at its eight locations in the Greater Vancouver area.

“Our farmer, Trevor, at Skye Hi Farms, we had an order with him at the start of the season as usual. He called us a few weeks ago and said, ‘Half my flock is gone and I have the flu. We can’t Sell ​​you those. A week later, the rest of the turkeys are gone, too,” said market owner Josh Penner, who ended up ordering turkeys from his Ontario farm.

“I can’t speak to the availability of other retail outlets, but it’s conceivable that they’re doing the same thing, trying to find supply that’s not local and not affected by bird flu,” Penner continued.

“It’s a big deal and I don’t think people really understand the extent of it, how many farms are affected and how that’s going to affect the supply of fresh turkeys for Christmas this year.”

Mask Siemens of the BC Poultry Association’s Emergency Operations Center said 17 of the province’s 40 turkey farms have suffered bird flu outbreaks since last November.

“It’s emotionally devastating and it’s financially devastating,” he said.

“We’re now seeing some turkey farms that were affected in the spring being affected again in the fall. So, you can imagine the mental health challenges that some of these farmers are going through right now are enormous.”

With so many hard-hit farms in British Columbia, local suppliers won’t be able to meet demand for turkeys this year, Siemens said.

“Unfortunately, we may need to take a broader look at local conditions this year and look at Canadian family farms more as a local option,” Siemens said. “In Canada, we’ve worked together across the country to keep this market as full as possible, but it’s been especially difficult given the time of year we’re facing this situation.”

For Penner, bringing his business to Ontario has been heartbreaking.

“It’s a real irony for Trevor (at Skye Hi Farm) and his family. It’s a huge part of their income. We’ve dealt with him for over 25 years.”

Penner has pledged to return to local suppliers as soon as the farm is back online.

His advice for people planning holiday dinners during a turkey shortage? act quickly.

“If you want a fresh turkey for Christmas, you should place an order or find one today.”

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