Hormel Says Turkey Sales Will Suffer This Year Because Of Bird Flu Outbreak

In the midst of a major avian flu outbreak, Hormel says the fallout from the virus will mean it sells fewer turkeys this year, after losing 1.7 million birds on 28 farms in Minnesota.

Minnesota is the nation’s largest turkey producer, reports the Minnesota Star-Tribune, and has been the epicenter for the H5N2 outbreak that’s seriously crippling Hormel’s operation, which relies on birds in that state and Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker has declared a state of emergency.

Out of those 28 farms hit by the flu, 18 have been suppliers to Hormel’s Jenni-O turkey division. A Hormel-owned farm in Wisconsin with 126,700 turkey was added to the rolls of bird flu-infected farms last week.

All this boils down to reduced production by Hormel, the country’s second-largest turkey processor, the company says.

“We are experiencing significant challenges in our turkey supply chain due to the recent [highly pathogenic avian flu] outbreaks in Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Hormel CEO Jeffrey Ettinger said in a statement. “While Jennie-O Turkey Store has delivered strong financial performance so far in the first half [of Hormel’s fiscal year], tight meat supplies and operational challenges will pressure earnings in the back half of our fiscal year.”

Minnesota, Wisconsin and Hormel aren’t suffering alone: Yesterday morning, an Iowa egg-laying operation confirmed that the flu will kill off 5.3 million hens, in a first for that state’s egg industry.

While the virus can take down a barn filled with thousands of birds in short order, most are euthanized out of precaution to keep the disease from spreading.

Bird flu hits 5.3 million Iowa chickens; Hormel says turkey production down [Minnesota Star Tribune]