CME: Avian Flu in Four States, What's the Damage?

US - H2N2 high pathogenic avian influenza has been identified in a backyard flock of chickens and ducks in Kansas but any action taken by trading partners regarding Kansas will not have a major impact on poultry exports or supplies, write Steve Meyer and Len Steiner.
calendar icon 19 March 2015
clock icon 5 minute read

H2N2 high pathogenic avian influenza has been identified in a backyard flock of chickens and ducks in Leavenworth County, Kansas. That is just northwest of Kansas City and marks the fourth state in which the virus has been diagnosed in the past three weeks.

The property was quarantined and a control zone was established around the site to control poultry movement. Kansas is not a major commercial poultry producing state. In fact, it is not among the states (27 of them) for which state level chicken data is provided in USDA’s Poultry Slaughter Annual Summary.

Neither is it among the individual states (11) for which turkey data are listed in that report.

Any action taken by trading partners regarding Kansas will not have a major impact on poultry exports or domestic supplies. But the discovery does indicate that the virus is still moving in the US, no doubt giving more reason for countries to look with some concern at US poultry products.

Perhaps more important is that Kansas is in the Central Flyway for migratory birds that lies to the west of the Mississippi Flyway that we discussed last week. It comes from the Gulf Coasts of Texas and Louisiana northward into the Dakotas, Montana and the Canadian Prairie Provinces.

That flyway covers parts of East Texas, western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, all major broiler production areas and the homes of several major broiler companies, including Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride.

Looking at a price chart for beef brisket what we found just a bit interesting about this chart is that, historically, there is little or no seasonal strength for briskets in the early part of the year.

Last year’s price run-up coincided with the explosion of all meat and poultry prices as PEDv-shortened hog supplies impacted the market and briskets have, as is the case for most beef cuts, remained near historic highs ever since.

The other main use for brisket, of course, is in barbecue where brisket is widely used for sliced beef. The cut’s fat content, texture and muscle shape make it perfect for smoking and other slow cooking methods.

Total US meat and poultry output is currently forecast to be record large this year and to break that record in 2016. These records mark a return to growth for the protein businesses after a decided slowing of output growth since the mid-’00s when feed costs increased sharply as ethanol claimed a larger and larger share of US corn output.

The drought of 2012 played a role in those high costs as well but its impact would not have been nearly as severe had it not come on the heals of the rapid growth of ethanol production. The good news is that high prices work and corn output — in the US and the world – has now caught up with the added demand, reducing costs from their highest levels.

Further, those higher costs have now been passed along to consumers (we always need to remember that they pay ALL cost in the long run!) in the form of higher prices. All of that led to a very profitable 2014 for all species and, since no one can stand prosperity for long, higher production.

Had the 1991-2008 trend continued, however, 2015 output would have been nearly 10 per cent (9.29 billion pounds) higher than it is now forecast to be.

It is clear from the chart that the main contributor to the growth of overall meat/poultry supply has been chicken whose output nearly doubled from 1991 to 2014.

US pork production increased 43 per cent over that same period while turkey production grew by 23 per cent. At the other end of the spectrum is lamb/veal, sectors whose output is only 40 per cent as large as they were back in 1991.

Beef’s record lies between those extremes but is decidedly to the low side of the “major” species with a gain of only 6.3 per cent over those 23 years. We attribute the difference in growth to two primary factors: Cost/price differences and the ability of other species to react more quickly than the beef sector to changing demands and conditions.

Further Reading

You can visit the Avian Flu page by clicking here.

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