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article imageBird flu raising price of turkey and other poultry

By Paul Moyer     Nov 20, 2015 in Business
Thanksgiving is almost here, which means the grocery stores are packed with shoppers looking to get everything for their Thanksgiving meal.
The grocery store trips revolve around the main dish of Thanksgiving dinner, the turkey. Shoppers may notice they are paying more for their main dish than they have in previous years.
The average price of a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people has risen to over just over $50, a new historical high. While many grocery store items like dairy have slightly decreased, the reason for the huge increase is the turkey, accounting for close to half of the cost of Thanksgiving dinner. Shoppers can expect to see turkey prices as much as 20 percent higher than last year's prices.
The average price of your delicious turkey will be $1.36 a pound wholesale, with some stores having much higher prices. The higher wholesale price translates to higher retail price (what the consumer pays).
There are several reasons for the increased cost of turkey, but the main factor is the toll that the avian flu had on the poultry population the past year. The avian flu ("bird flu") has resulted in more than 48 million deaths of poultry in the United States; 7.5 million of those were turkeys. While this number can seem drastic, 7.5 million only accounts for less than 4 percent of the United States turkey population, but has translated into a 7 percent decline in the turkey meat production, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Turkey prices are not the only increase you'll see at the store. The prices of chicken meat, duck and eggs have risen as well. Egg prices had doubled in one year's time, at one point reaching an average of $1.85 a dozen, the highest prices ever recorded.
The avian flu is not only hurting families' grocery bills but large companies as well. At certain points during the summer, restaurants were forced to take drastic measures to keep costs down. Panda Express, a popular Chinese food chain stopped serving eggs in their rice and replaced it with corn. Whataburger, a fast-food restaurant, decided to reduce the hours they served breakfast to cut down on the number of eggs they used.
The avian flu, also called H5N1, is a disease contracted through infection and passed on through all type of birds. The bird flu can infect both wild fowl and domestic poultry and spreads rapidly among bird populations.
While the disease is deadly to birds, in some cases the bird flu shows little to no symptoms, which can make it difficult to detect. When contracted in a domestic poultry, it can spread quickly through birds that live closely together.
While it is possible for humans to contract the avian flu, it is extremely rare; the first case of bird flu in a human was documented in 1997 in Hong Kong. Since then there have been 608 confirmed cases of avian flu in humans globally.
Medical researchers have said there is no fear of a human contracting the bird flu from eating turkey or any other poultry or fowl. Scientists say that normal cooking your poultry at the correct temperature will kill all traces of the flu if the bird happens to be infected.
If you are still worried, be sure to fully cook your turkey to eliminate any small chance of contracting the bird flu, or any other possible disease. Be sure always to cook turkey and all other meats at the suggest temperature for the size and type of the meat. For the average size turkey of 20 lbs., it's suggested to cook for 3.5 -4 hours at 325 degrees. Using a meat thermometer is the best way to ensure meat cooked thoroughly and safe to eat.
This year Americans will eat around 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving alone. If you're worried about the higher price of your Thanksgiving dinner, don't worry, many grocery stores will be offering sales and coupons trying to entice shoppers.
For anyone that loves to cook turkey year round, prices are expected to drop back to normal as the warmer weather approaches, and the bird flu is eradicated.
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