One can almost understand how pharaoh might have felt as God sent plagues of locusts, frogs, darkness and more upon Egypt.
Of course, things are not that bad, but seemingly daily news items of fertilizer shortages, transportation and fuel issues, food processing plant fires, continued concern about COVID and talk of the unmentionable — nuclear war — make one say: What is going on?
Now you can add one more “plague” to the list: bird flu. It’s killing millions of chickens, turkeys and ducks and is raising food prices, according to CNBC.
Over the weekend, Oklahoma became the 31st state to confirm avian flu in chickens, State Impact, the Oklahoma consortium of public radio stations, reported. Also over the weekend, 19,000 ducks on seven farms in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania had to be killed in hopes of containing the disease, WGAL said.
As of Monday, 35 million birds in the U.S were reported to have died or been killed due to the flu, the second-worst spread of the disease in history, Reuters reported. France has culled 16 million birds and the disease has also occurred in Britain, Italy and Spain.
Affected birds were in both commercial flocks and non-commercial backyard flocks.
Big commercial chicken farmers may have an advantage, since they have in place bio-security measures, according to Dr. Alicia Gorczyca-Southerland, assistant Oklahoma state veterinarian, State Impact said.
She recommended keeping poultry indoors or in coops and keeping them away from waterways to avoid transmission from ducks.
U.S. and European commercial growers of organic and free-range chickens have been keeping their birds indoors. That’s caused problems for consumers paying extra for designations of birds being free-range, according to Reuters.
Will bird flu push us further toward food shortages?
Since November, France has required farmers to keep chickens indoors; the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the practice, but does not require it.
A major U.S. producer of free-range chickens and eggs, Pete and Gerry’s, is keeping its birds indoors. “We will be constantly evaluating the exposure risk and will have them back outside in the sunshine as soon as possible,” the company said.
Avian flu can spread to humans, but that risk is low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of last week, the CDC confirmed only one person has tested positive for it. That individual, “who had direct exposure to poultry,” has since recovered.
To avoid bird-to-human avian flu transmission, the CDC encourages avoiding direct contact with wild birds and with domestic birds that look sick and with the bodies of dead birds and surfaces contaminated with bodily fluids and feces of birds.
The bird flu joins the growing list of threats in daily life — many of them being contributors to inflation. Reduced poultry flocks lead to higher prices for chicken and eggs, prices already boosted by increasing transportation costs.
And who knows what’s behind the bizarre fires and shutdowns at some two dozen food processing plants, including two planes crashing into a couple of plants in one week!
Meanwhile, it’s good to read about increasing numbers of people posting on social media about how they are learning or returning to the venerable practices of growing and preserving their own food.
That’s commendable — and with the way things are going, probably necessary.
Because if the government tries to solve the problem by once again mailing everybody checks, they will be worthless if there’s no food to buy.
That’s something to keep in mind — along with remembering that for now, at least, you need to keep your chickens inside the coop.