USPoultry recently released a video explaining a common myth — poultry are raised with additional growth hormones. This is not true, especially since it is against the law! Learn more about the poultry industry and what is contributing to larger and faster growing birds if it is not hormones.
I have blogged about hormones in these other posts:
I always enjoy reading and hearing about expected trends in food. I love to try new dishes and flavors and enjoy experimenting in my own kitchen when given the chance.
With that, members of the American Culinary Federation have identified food categories they believe will be the 2016 food trends. Over 1,600 chefs were surveyed by the National Restaurant Association’s annual “What’s Hot: 2016 Culinary Forecast“.
Bacon, the candy of the meat world, and other processed meats (i.e. ham, hotdog, sausage, salami, chorizo, deli meats, corned beef, jerky, canned meat) were recently categorized as Group 1 Carcinogens (carcinogenic to humans) by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), because of a causal link with bowel cancer. Other Group 1 Carcinogens include arsenic, tobacco, sunlight, alcohol, asbestos, and leather and wood dust. Red meat is listed as a Group 2A (probably carcinogenic to humans), along with grilled food and the profession of a hairdresser. The entire list of carcinogens can be found here.
The WHO defines “processed” asmeat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation. Most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats may also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products such as blood (I don’t know about you, but these are common methods I use to prepare food at my home…). Additionally, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) has an excellent article on Processed Meats: Convenience, Nutrition, Taste.
Processed meats are important. The ingredients and processes used to make hotdogs and bacon and sausage are about more than creating tasty treats to eat at tailgates. Processed meats help us to use meat more efficiently, waste less food and feed more people.
Processed meats allow us to use the whole animal. There are lots of cuts on the animal that wouldn’t taste very good if we just tried to cook them like fresh meat. They may be too tough, too small, or too fatty. Meat processors grind them up and mix them all together to make sausages and hotdogs.
Processed meats allow us to store meat for longer times. Ingredients like salt, sugar, and nitrites help fend off bacteria that cause it to go bad. They also keep it from becoming rancid. Think about how long hotdogs and ham last in the fridge in comparison to fresh steaks and burgers.
Processed meats are a good source of inexpensive protein. Foods like hotdogs and sausages are inexpensive, but they provide protein. People need that protein, especially kids. Protein helps you feel fuller, longer after a meal. It also helps build and repair muscles as kids grow. Research has shown that kids fed protein perform better in school. In some poor families, processed meats are the only way they can afford to feed their kids protein.
Processed meats help prevent food-borne illness. Ingredients like salt and lactates help keep dangerous bacteria, like Listeria, from growing, and nitrites are added to prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that causes Botulism.
Processed meat has been classified in the same category as causes of cancer such as tobacco smoking and asbestos (IARC Group 1, carcinogenic to humans), but this does NOT mean that they are all equally dangerous. The IARC classifications describe the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of risk.
Meat consists of multiple components, such as heme iron. Meat can also contain chemicals that form during meat processing or cooking. For instance, carcinogenic chemicals that form during meat processing include N-nitroso compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Cooking of red meat or processed meat also produces heterocyclic aromatic amines as well as other chemicals including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are also found in other foods and in air pollution. Some of these chemicals are known or suspected carcinogens, but despite this knowledge it is not yet fully understood how cancer risk is increased by red meat or processed meat.
The IARC experts indicated that each 50 gram (1.8 ounce) serving (about 1 hotdog or 3 strips of bacon) of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. The Guardian reported:
Dr Elizabeth Lund – an independent consultant in nutritional and gastrointestinal health, and a former research leader at the Institute of Food Research, who acknowledges she did some work for the meat industry in 2010 – said red meat was linked to about three extra cases of bowel cancer per 100,000 adults in developed countries. “A much bigger risk factor is obesity and lack of exercise,” she said. “Overall, I feel that eating meat once a day combined with plenty of fruit, vegetables and cereal fiber, plus exercise and weight control, will allow for a low risk of colorectal cancer and a more balanced diet.”
Dr. Betsy Booren, NAMI (North American Meat Institute) said, “Followers of the Mediterranean diet eat double the recommended amount of processed meats. People in countries where the Mediterranean diet is followed, like Spain, Italy and France, have some of the longest lifespans in the world and excellent health.”
Let’s examine the real risk. The average person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer is approximately 5%. If the WHO data suggesting an 18% increase in risk is correct, a daily 50 g serving of processed meat increases that risk to 5.9 % (an increase slightly less than 1 people per 100), of which between 0.65 – 5.4 people will survive for 5 years or more (depending on cancer stage at diagnosis). Despite the increase in meat consumption over the past century (and therefore assumed increase in processed meat consumption due to changes in dining habits and food availability), the death rate from colorectal cancer has dropped over the past 20 years. Moreover, in media articles discussing the WHO announcement, there is no mention of mitigating factors such as fruit and vegetable consumption. What happens if I eat 50 g of bacon within a huge salad with a side of oat bread, a meal high in dietary fiber, which is cited as having a protective effect against colorectal cancer? Or if I eat bacon after running five miles, given the role of exercise in preventing cancer? As with so many other health risks, it’s almost impossible to assess the impact of meat consumption in isolation.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President, Phillip Ellis, had this to say about the claims:
Let me be clear, this group did not conduct new research during their meeting, they simply reviewed existing evidence, including six studies submitted by the beef checkoff. That evidence had already been reviewed and weighed by the medical and scientific community. The science reviewed by IARC simply does not support their decision.
We know that there isn’t clear evidence to support IARC’s decision because the beef checkoff has commissioned independent studies on the topic for a decade. In fact, countless studies have been conducted by cancer and medical experts and they have all determined the same thing: No one food can cause or cure cancer. But that hasn’t prevented IARC from deciding otherwise. This conclusion isn’t mine alone and you can evaluate the information for yourself. We’ve posted the studies reviewed by IARC and other information about the committee’s findings on the website: factsaboutbeef.com. At NCBA, our team of experts has also been working with our state partners and other industry organizations to ensure consumers understand what the science really shows.
Since IARC began meeting in 1979, these experts have reviewed more than 900 compounds, products and factors for possible correlation with cancer. To date, only one product (caprolactam, which is a chemical primarily used to create synthetic fibers like nylon) has been granted a rating of 4, which indicates it is “probably not carcinogenic to humans.” Most other factors or products that have been examined by the body, including glyphosate, aloe vera, nightshift work and sunlight have fallen into three categories: 2B “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” 2A “probably carcinogenic to humans,” or 1 “carcinogenic to humans.”
Overwhelmingly, the reaction by most people has been “oh well”, no one is quite ready to give up bacon yet. The NAMI gathered some feedback and quotes from people around the world on the announcement. To read those comments go here.
Charred (blackened or burnt) meat can contribute to carcinogenic effects. Facts About Beef recommends that when cooking meat it is very important to monitor heat level and doneness temperatures of meat, poultry, and fish. Additionally, making lean beef part of your diet can provide the nutritious health benefits and healthy fat, which can help reduce the risk of cancer! Read more at Facts About Beef.
I would venture to guess there are very few people on this planet that do not know someone affected by cancer. It is a serious and complicated disease – no one really knows what causes it or how to prevent it. As the commercials indicate, one bite of kale or one sit up are not enough to keep us healthy and disease free forever. Everything, literally everything, could potentially give us cancer — stress, lack of sleep, age, our gender, genetics, smoking, our weight, activity level, career, family, lifestyle hormones, phones, alcohol, food, etc. It is virtually impossible to identify one food that can cause or prevent cancer, thus making discussions on red meat being a possible carcinogen a challenge for experts to reach consensus.
To date, scientists and health professionals agree that maintaining a healthy diet, an active lifestyle, and being a non-smoker can reduce the risk of cancer. While processed meats have been added to the list of carcinogenic items, the science is divided on these claims. Until we know why or how cancer and processed meats are linked, moderation seems like a very reasonable suggestion.
Last week Miss Colorado represented her state in the Miss America pageant. Kelley Johnson performed a monologue on why she became a nurse and how a patient, Joe, told her she was more than JUST a nurse.
The following day, co-hosts on The View made flippant comments about her scrubs (her “costume”) and the doctor’s stethoscope she had around her neck.
Nurses and supporters of nurses across the country took to social media to defend Miss Colorado and the nursing profession. The View co-hosts did issue an apology after receiving so much backlash.
It was amazing to see so much support on my social media pages for nurses. As I watched this story develop and thought about the times in my life where a nurse helped make a bad situation better, it made me think about agriculture. Agriculture and nursing? Yes, it made me think… when will more farmers, ranchers, and their supporters rally around their industry like nurses did this past week? When people mock agriculture and the farmers and ranchers who work everyday to provide one of the safest and most economical food supplies in the world, why don’t we rally around those farmers and ranchers? When lies are told about farmers and ranchers why don’t we rally around them? After all, we ALL have to eat to survive, who do we think grows and raises that food? Farmers and ranchers!
Just like in nursing (or any profession) there are some bad eggs, some people that are an embarrassment to the entire profession, those bad eggs exist in agriculture too. Does the nursing profession let those bad eggs dictate how the other nurses are perceived? No, not from what I saw this past week when nurses across America united. In agriculture, why do the bad eggs determine what people think of agriculture? The negative images and negative stereotypes of American agriculture are what most people believe to be the norm.
The people who have chosen to raise food as their profession are more than JUST farmers and ranchers too. The farmers and ranchers I know have some of the same qualities of nurses… they provide the best care they can to the animal/patient in their care, they try to quickly and accurately diagnose a health problem so the animal/patient can begin recovery, they provide compassion when others may not be able to, they work on weekends, holidays, and nights, and they are some of the most selfless and humble people you will ever meet.
It is time to #agunite and to stand up for the farmers and ranchers who have taken a beating about their profession, the profession of growing and raising food. What do you say, will you #agunite and show your support?
Dr. Brad Jones, a veterinarian with the University of Nebraska and Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center talks about the decision-making process regarding antibiotic use in cattle and pigs, including the diagnosis of illnesses, treatment and antibiotic use considerations, and how animals are tracked from antibiotic administration to harvest.
This video by North American Meat Institute (NAMI) is part of the “Glass Walls” series which are designed to offer a behind the scenes tours of meat harvest facilities, how meat products are made, and more. You can watch more of the Glass Walls videos here.
Last week media headlines indicated there is poop or fecal material in hamburger meant for human consumption. Yikes, that is a scary thought… Thankfully, it is untrue. This post will explain why these headlines are full of half-truths, and steps you can take to ensure you are practicing safe hamburger cooking.
About 50% of the red meat we eat is in the form of hamburger (aka ground beef), it is versatile, convenient, and usually the price is right. It is always important to use good sanitation when preparing food and to cook meat to the proper internal temperature (Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart).
Before meat or hamburger is demonized, it should be noted that ALL foods (plant and animal based) have the potential to make you sick. Did you know the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is responsible for tracking food recalls, withdrawals, and safety alerts? And they make that list available to us? You can read the 2015 list here. The thing I want to most point out: all foods, regardless of how they were grown/raised (organic, conventional, small farm, large farm, etc.) are on the list. These recalls do not necessarily happen because of a possible foodborne pathogen problems, it is often because a product is mislabeled, does not indicate it contains a possible allergenic ingredient, or has a distribution problem.
The original report by Consumer Reports can be read here. As is the case with sensational headlines, bits and pieces of the article were cherry picked and the good information did not make headlines…
Consumer Reports said: “All 458 pounds of beef we examined contained bacteria that signified fecal contamination (enterococcus and/or nontoxin-producing E. coli), which can cause blood or urinary tract infections. Almost 20 percent contained C. perfringens, a bacteria that causes almost 1 million cases of food poisoning annually. Ten percent of the samples had a strain of S. aureus bacteria that can produce a toxin that can make you sick. That toxin can’t be destroyed—even with proper cooking.”
Eric Mittenthal, with the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) says “many in the media have focused on one claim from the study that has led to several very misleading and inaccurate stories—the idea that there is poop or fecal matter in your meat. Certainly this makes for eye grabbing headlines, but Consumer Reports did not find fecal matter in meat. In fact, nowhere in its report does it mention the words “fecal matter” or “poop.” What it found were bacteria, namely generic E.coli and Enterococcus, that are sometimes classified as signal organisms for fecal contamination, but different than fecal matter. The majority of this was Enterococcus which microbiologists now say are not good indicators of fecal contamination. What Consumer Reports found were bacteria that are commonly found in the environment, so it is no surprise to find them in beef, blueberries, anywhere else in a grocery store, or on your computer keyboard or phone. That doesn’t mean there’s poop on your phone, just that bacteria that once originated in a gastrointestinal tract is there. Simply put, they are different. For media to claim otherwise is simply inaccurate and misleading.”
It is important to note that the bacteria found are not commonly associated with foodborne illnesses from eating undercooked meat. It takes time for the toxins to form. These bacteria are more commonly associated with cooked food left out too long at the wrong temperature says Daren Williams, Executive Director of Communications, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).
Additionally, Dr. Gary Acuff, Texas A&M microbiologist and director of the University’s Center for Food Safety, confirmed that the presence of bacteria do not indicate fecal contamination. “A “fecal indicator” bacteria does not mean feces is present. It means that bacteria originally associated with a gastrointestinal tract are present, and that might indicate the possible presence of a pathogen like Salmonella or Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC). We use generic E. coli to give us a heads-up that something might be wrong with sanitation or our process, not to indicate the actual presence of feces. Read the entire NAMI response here.
Mandy Carr-Johnson, Ph.D., senior executive director, Science and Product Solutions, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), says “The good news is the bacteria found in the Consumer Reports tests are not the type of bacteria commonly associated with foodborne illness in ground beef.” Carr continues to say, “As an industry, our number one priority is producing the safest beef possible. Ground beef is the safest it has ever been with greater than 90 percent reductions in bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7 and significant reductions in salmonella in recent years. The beef community continues to invest millions of dollars in developing new safety technologies with the goal of eliminating foodborne illness.”
The Consumer Report says “Between 2003 and 2012, there were almost 80 outbreaks of E. coli O157 due to tainted beef, sickening 1,144 people, putting 316 in the hospital, and killing five. Ground beef was the source of the majority of those outbreaks. And incidences of food poisoning are vastly under-reported. For every case of E. coli O157 that we hear about, we estimate that another 26 cases actually occur.”
So let’s pencil this out… That is 10 years of time (counting 2003 and 2012), 8 cases of E. coli O157 tainted beef per year, sickening 114 people per year, putting 32 in the hospital annually, and killing 1/2 person a year. While I am not trying to downplay the seriousness of the effects of food-borne pathogens E. coli O157 in this case), these numbers on an annual basis may seem more reasonable. Or think about the fact you have a bigger risk of being in a car accident, get hit crossing the street, or struck by lightning than you do from eating E. coli O157 tainted beef! This statement mentions that not all cases may be reported, this may be due in part to people not knowing what made them sick, people’s acidic stomachs killing possible pathogens, or not enough people getting sick from a common source to make it a case. Persons who are very young or old, pregnant, or who have immunocompromised systems would be most at risk with foodborne pathogens. Fun fact: packing plants regularly swab carcasses for pathogens, to ensure optimal food safety.
The Consumer Report says: “It’s not surprising to find bacteria on favorite foods such as chicken, turkey, and pork. But we usually choose to consume those meats well-cooked, which makes them safer to eat. Americans, however, often prefer their beef on the rare side. Undercooking steaks may increase your risk of food poisoning, but ground beef is more problematic. Bacteria can get on the meat during slaughter or processing. In whole cuts such as steak or roasts, the bacteria tend to stay on the surface, so when you cook them, the outside is likely to get hot enough to kill any bugs. But when beef is ground up, the bacteria get mixed throughout, contaminating all of the meat—including what’s in the middle of your hamburger. Also contributing to ground beef’s bacteria level: The meat and fat trimmings often come from multiple animals, so meat from a single contaminated cow can end up in many packages of ground beef. Ground beef (like other ground meats) can also go through several grinding steps at processing plants and in stores, providing more opportunities for cross-contamination to occur.”
This statement is partially true, on a whole cut of meat (i.e. steak, chop, roast) potential pathogens would only be on the surface of the meat and should be killed during the cooking process. However, when a ground meat product is made, the meat may be handled several times, come from several animals, and in general just have more places in the trimming/grinding process where contamination can occur. This is no different than a glass of orange juice containing juice from several oranges, a glass of milk containing milk from several cows, or a bag of rice containing rice from several fields.
Consumer Reports says: ” And then there’s the way home cooks handle raw ground beef: kneading it with bare hands to form burger patties or a meatloaf. Unless you’re scrupulous about washing your hands thoroughly afterward, bacteria can remain and contaminate everything you touch—from the surfaces in your kitchen to other foods you are preparing.”
This is a true statement. I often hear people blame the animal farmer, the meat packer, the retailer, or the restaurant if they get ill, however, the consumer (you and me) can be the ones to blame. It is very important to practice good sanitation and food safety at home. Here is a good read on common food safety myths.
This was Consumer Reports methodology: “… Consumer Reports decided to test for the prevalence and types of bacteria in ground beef. We purchased 300 packages—a total of 458 pounds (the equivalent of 1,832 quarter-pounders)—from 103 grocery, big-box, and natural food stores in 26 cities across the country. We bought all types of ground beef: conventional—the most common type of beef sold, in which cattle are typically fattened up with grain and soy in feedlots and fed antibiotics and other drugs to promote growth and prevent disease—as well as beef that was raised in more sustainable ways, which have important implications for food safety and animal welfare. At a minimum, sustainably produced beef was raised without antibiotics. Even better are organic and grass-fed methods. Organic cattle are not given antibiotics or other drugs, and they are fed organic feed. Grass-fed cattle usually don’t get antibiotics, and they spend their lives on pasture, not feedlots.”
Bias alert… While I am glad they bought beef raised in various ways, implying that organic and grass-fed cattle are safer or more sustainable is a biased statement. It is unfair to report that one beef raising system is more sustainable than another. “All beef production models can be sustainable,” says Dr. Kim Stackhouse, executive director of sustainability for NCBA. “Beef sustainability is defined as producing more product with fewer inputs, which is the goal of every beef producer in this country. To cattle farmers and ranchers, sustainability means balancing environmental responsibility, economic opportunity, and social diligence while meeting the growing global demand for beef.”
Also, the statement grass-fed cattle usually don’t get antibiotics is just an assumption. There is not a governing body to monitor the grass-fed meat market like there is for the organic market. It cannot be simply assumed that just because the meat came from a grass-fed system that it has not received antibiotics. This is a major flaw in the Consumer Reports methodology. I did a series on meat labels and what they mean, to read more about grass-fed, grain-fed, organic, natural, etc. go here.
Consumer Reports also indicated “One of the most significant findings of our research is that beef from conventionally raised cows was more likely to have bacteria overall, as well as bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, than beef from sustainably raised cows. We found a type of antibiotic-resistant S. aureus bacteria called MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), which kills about 11,000 people in the U.S. every year, on three conventional samples (and none on sustainable samples). And 18 percent of conventional beef samples were contaminated with superbugs—the dangerous bacteria that are resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics—compared with just 9 percent of beef from samples that were sustainably produced. “We know that sustainable methods are better for the environment and more humane to animals. But our tests also show that these methods can produce ground beef that poses fewer public health risks.”
“Our concern is that leading consumers to believe organic and grass-fed beef are safer could make them think they do not need to cook those products to 160 ºF, creating a food safety concern,” says Dr. Mindy Brashears, professor, food microbiology and food safety, Texas Tech University. “It is important to note that bacteria was also found in the organic and grass-fed samples. The bottom-line is that no matter what the label says ground beef should be cooked to 160 ºF as a final step to ensure safety. Both S. aureus and C. perfringens found in the Consumer Reports study are toxin-producing bacteria that are typically associated with picnic-type food poisoning cases where food has been left out for long periods of time at the incorrect temperature, not undercooked ground beef,” says Brashears.
The good news, says Dr. Mandy Carr-Johnson is the Consumer Reports study did not find pathogenic bacteria like shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STECs) in any of the samples, including conventional beef. Controlling pathogenic bacteria is the key in terms of ensuring safety. Unfortunately, the Consumer Reports study confuses that issue with the finding of generic E. coli and other bacteria that are not commonly associated with illnesses from consuming undercooked ground beef. Read the entire article from Facts About Beef here.
When in doubt, cook ground meat products to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and thoroughly wash your hands, cooking tools, and surfaces. If you are dining out, ask for your burger to be cooked to a degree of doneness of medium-well. If you are served an undercooked burger, do not be afraid to send it back to be cooked more. Eating beef should not be a scary experience, it should be an enjoyable and flavorful experience!
The headlines about poop in your ground beef was meant to draw attention and sensationalize this story, however, it is full of half-truths and incorrect information. When stories like these hit the newsstands and media waves, it is important to read and understand them, to question what they are saying, and to engage the people who work in these industries and who know the facts that can be backed up with science and research.
People quote a lot of “research” on the internet, however, the sources are generally not peer reviewed or from reputable resources.
A super handy tip when trying to find peer reviewed or credible information is to type what you want to look up and then follow it with site:edu. For example, this would look like heat stress site:edu. Adding the site:edu ensures that research which has been peer reviewed or research done by a university come up first in your search. These are generally seen as more credible than popular media and various websites. Also, it also puts you in touch with people who are “experts” on a topic, so you could potentially follow up on a topic.
Another fun fact… If Google is your go-to for looking up a topic, then go to Google scholar.Google scholar “provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites”.
Once you have found these research based articles, reading through them can be daunting. However, Elsevier, an academic publishing company, released a handy little infographic on how to read scientific papers. I thought it had some great points, and I encourage you to check it out. Hopefully it makes ready scientific literature a little less daunting.
From the comments below, you will see that my friend Stephen shared another tip! I was not aware of this but have been trying it out and find it very helpful. When you do a Google search, type skeptic after what you want to look up. For example, this would look like GMO skeptic. From what I can tell, it filters out the popular media stuff (usually not very reliable or true) and brings up content that is worth reading!
This blog post was recently shared with me about the purpose of science, and how science may make mistakes, but how they are usually corrected via more/other science. A good read.
What other tips do you have for finding credible, scientific, peer-reviewed information?
2015 will go down as a devastating year for the poultry industry, with Avian Influenza (i.e. bird flu) as the culprit. Whether you are a poultry and/or egg farmer, a youth preparing for a 4-H/FFA show, or are just trying to buy eggs at the grocery store – you have probably been affected.
Several states have cancelled their youth poultry shows and exhibitions. This year at our county fair (in Nebraska) we are looking forward to the alternative poultry projects of an educational showmanship poster contest, poultry art, coops/feeders/waterers, and the rooster crowing contest. The poultry (without the poultry) contest should still be educational and fun.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) has reported that more than 48 million birds have been affected by the current avian influenza outbreak which has hit 15 states.
The Associated Press (AP) announced Tom Vilsack, U.S. Agriculture Secretary, reported scientists have developed a vaccine strain has tested 100% effective in protecting chickens from the bird flu. Testing is currently underway to see if it also protects turkeys. If it does, the agency plans to quickly license it for widespread production and is seeking funding from the Office of Management and Budget to stockpile it nationally.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to get a lot of folks working collaboratively together and we stockpile enough so that if this does hit and hits us hard we’re in a position to respond quickly,” Vilsack said. “Developing a vaccine targeted to the H5N2 virus that has killed 48 million birds since early March in 15 states, including hardest-hit Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska, is one aspect of planning for a potential recurrence of the bird flu,” says Vilsack.
Scientists believe the virus is spread through the droppings of wild birds migrating north to nesting grounds. They’re concerned it could return this fall when birds fly south for the winter or again next spring. Southern and eastern states including Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia, states that raise chickens for meat, are worried it could spread there next.
Not all poultry producers are on the same page when it comes to using vaccine to fight an outbreak.
Turkey producers tend to favor vaccination to protect flocks because turkey immune systems appear more vulnerable to viruses. Some egg producers and farmers who raise broilers (chickens produced for meat) often resist vaccination programs because of the possible impact on export markets. U.S. producers export nearly $6 billion worth of poultry and egg products yearly with about $5 billion of that being chicken meat.
“There are many unanswered questions that must be addressed before any strong consideration is given to a vaccination program,” said Tom Super, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council, which represents 95% of U.S. broiler raising chicken farmers. “Two concerns of several are the effectiveness of the vaccine and potential impacts on trade.”
Meetings also have been held with importers of U.S. poultry products to try and convince them not to block all poultry imports if a vaccination program is enacted in response to another outbreak. “That’s still an open question and we’ve been working with a number of countries today to get them convinced to ban regionally as opposed to the entire country,” Vilsack said.
Many countries have a strict policy of refusing to accept meat from nations using a vaccine because it can be difficult to discern through testing whether birds were infected with an active virus or were vaccinated, said James Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council. Even during the current outbreak which affected 15 states, about 10 trade partners banned poultry imports from the entire U.S., Sumner said.
Vilsack said it’s uncertain when a vaccine would be ready for large-scale production. Even once stockpiled, a vaccination program would not begin until the USDA, consulting with affected states, decided it was necessary to control an outbreak.
BuzzFeed has come up with a great list of 10 Things Farmers are Tired of Hearing – and it is pretty spot on.
If you are reading this and would like more information about any of the points discussed in the article, please let me know, I would be glad to send resources to you or to visit with you more about agriculture.
If you are reading this article and would like to visit a farm or ranch in person, instead of looking at what is portrayed on your computer screen (not always true or accurate), please let me know – I would be more than happy to find someone across the country that can accommodate your needs.