National Bird Flu Epidemic Could be Good News for Texas Farmers

A Texas poultry expert discusses whether a bird flu vaccine could be helpful or hurtful, and how the egg shortage could actually benefit the Texas economy.

By Rhonda FanningJune 9, 2015 2:33 pm,

Some folks are implementing egg rations in yet another sign that the bird flu is disrupting the egg industry. Signs up at HEB’s across the state warn that eggs are not for commercial sale and individuals are limited to three cartons per person. That’s bad news for consumers. But, Iowa, the nation’s biggest supplier of eggs, has been hit the hardest by the bird flu.

Craig Coufal is an associate professor in the Department of Poultry Science at Texas A&M University. Coufal says higher prices could be beneficial for the state’s egg producers.
“As long as we can keep the avian influenza from coming to Texas our producers will keep going and keep producing eggs. Higher prices nationwide on the open market will mean better returns for our Texas industry,” Coufal says.

Farmers affected by the bird flu are pushing the FDA to approve a vaccination while others don’t want to see the vaccination program go into effect without further testing and economic analysis. Coufal says he doesn’t believe the farmers who are against the vaccine are trying to exploit the higher prices.

“The concern is that if we start vaccination programs then it gets to be difficult to do any testing to validate flocks being free from avian influenza because they’re already going to have the antibodies produced to that virus,” Coufal says. “You won’t be able to test those flocks and know if they’ve actually had a field challenge. That becomes a challenge for the industry as a whole when we’re looking at export markets because our foreign customers who buy a lot of our product–particularly on the dark meat side of the market–don’t want to buy product from areas that are not verified to be avian influenza-free. So if you start vaccinating that causes export market challenges.”

So will this be a good or bad year for the poultry industry? Coufal says that just depends on your perspective and where you’re located.