USDA Confirms Additional Cases of Virulent Newcastle Disease in Backyard Birds in California 

California Backyard Chickens Succumb to Newcastle Disease

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed five additional cases of virulent Newcastle disease in backyard exhibition chickens in California—two in Los Angeles County, one in Riverside County and two in San Bernardino County.

A complete list of confirmed cases is available on the USDA’s website at www.aphis.usda.gov/animalhealth/vnd.

Virulent Newcastle disease has not been found in commercial poultry in the United States since 2003.

No human cases of Newcastle disease have ever occurred from eating poultry products. Properly cooked poultry products are safe to eat.  In very rare instances, people working directly with sick birds can become infected.  Symptoms are usually very mild and limited to conjunctivitis. Infection is easily prevented by using the standard personal protective equipment.

Samples from the flocks were tested at the California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory System (CAHFS).  The APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, confirms all findings. APHIS is working closely with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to respond to these findings and to conduct an epidemiological investigation. Federal and State partners are also conducting additional surveillance and testing in the area.

In addition to practicing good biosecurity, all bird owners should report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through their state veterinarian or USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593. Additional information on biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at Biosecurity for Birds.

Poultry Industry Doing Well, for Now

Poultry Industry Shines, Like a Canary in a Coal Mine

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation, based in Modesto, reported the state’s poultry industry is doing well despite new regulations and wage increases. “First of all,” he explained, “it looks like chicken has taken over as the [category of] highest meat consumption now in the United States. It’s getting more and more popular, so that’s good,” Mattos noted.

“Also, the best thing is the industry seems to be weathering the Highly Pathogenic Avian Flu (HPAI) A (H5N1) storm,” he continued. “In California, we’re doing our due diligence with biosecurity. We don’t have any Avian Influenza. We’ll knock on wood for that.”

California Poultry Federation logo“The industry is also enjoying lower feed costs. That’s 60% of our cost, so that’s good news,” he added.

And, poultry industry employees have job security. “It doesn’t look like there will be fewer employees in the industry over the next few years, and we’d like to have more,” he said.

Notwithstanding the good news, challenges loom on the near horizon. “The Air Quality and Water Quality Control Boards are regulating a lot of different industries,” Mattos observed. “They’re starting to look at the poultry industry now that they have completed the dairy rules. We’re very concerned about those issues, so we are trying to work with the boards to explain to them what we do and how our business runs,” noted Mattos.

The updated minimum wage requirement may hurt the California poultry industry, another big concern of Mattos. “We supply half the chicken consumed in California. The other half comes from out of state. Without the same minimum wage requirements, we’re going to be at a disadvantage. We’re looking into the different possibilities—what we can do—to offset that.”

“You will be seeing some new things coming out from the poultry industry as we look at the ramifications of the new minimum wage,” explained Mattos. “We can’t compete with that. They are going to be taking a lot more percentage away from us, which may cost us some jobs if we don’t work this out.”

“With the minimum wage hike, California lawmakers are trying to appease workers. But it really affects businesses. Ours happen to be mostly in the Central Valley, which is the hardest-pressed area for unemployment. It isn’t a good place to have to follow wage requirements like you’re seeing in San Francisco and Los Angeles. It frankly makes no sense in the Central Valley,” said Mattos.

Outlook on California Poultry

Bill Mattos: Outlook for California Poultry Industry

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

California’s poultry industry has a positive outlook for the coming year despite the recent outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza plaguing the rest of the nation’s poultry industry. Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation, said the coming year will see chicken overtaking beef.

“We’re learning from a lot of economists that we are going to have an exciting year for poultry next year and into the future,” Mattos said. “It looks like chicken is taking over beef next year, and all of poultry will be ahead of the red meats. We love our beef and pork friends, but we’re passing them. It looks like the healthfulness of chicken and the capacity to grow locally—everything in California—is looking good for the poultry industry. And we’re excited. We think the chicken and turkey industries will have a good year coming up.”

And although the price of corn is still higher in California versus nationally, Mattos said this industry is still doing well. “We still pay about a dollar or more a bushel for corn in California. But prices are outstanding compared to what they were two or three years ago, so our companies are making some money.”

With the flyways, or bird migration, coming back this fall, Mattos said the California poultry industry is prepared with increased biosecurity on their farms and ranches to prevent an avian influenza outbreak. Mattos said, “It’s very important that we make sure our companies are locking down their facilities—keeping visitors off and maintaining a biosecurity that’s first in the nation—because any type of bird flu that could invade here and spread would devastate the marketplace.”

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California Poultry Federation