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Egg Week

06/15/2022

USDA Weekly Egg Price and Inventory Report, June 16th 2022.

 

Market Overview

  • Average wholesale unit revenue for Midwest Extra-large and Large sizes was lower by 5.5 percent from the past week confirming a slow downward trend. Mediums were down 8.7 percent. This follows depletion of more than 31.4 million hens including 13 large complexes in nine states from the last week in February to the first week in June. The decrease in price for all sizes and breaking stock this past week occurred despite a 2.2 percent decrease in industry shell-egg inventory following a 2.9 percent decrease last week. This suggests larger orders by chains to replenish the retail pipeline in the face of sustained demand as consumers seek value. Retail sales are projected lower over the short term. In the unlikely event of additional cases of HPAI, availability will be more severely impacted especially in the breaking sector. Industry inventory decreased overall this past week to 1.76 million cases due to a 2.2 percent decrease in shell eggs concurrently with a 3.1 percent decrease in breaking stock. Retailers are expected to maximize shelf prices in relation to demand. Wholesale unit prices during the first quarter of 2022 and the subsequent two months contrasted favorably with the corresponding periods in both 2020 and 2021 that were characterized by low ex-plant unit revenue. Wholesale Midwest prices are still yielding unusually high positive margins, despite the higher combined costs of nest-run, (feed, chicks, labor and fuel), grading, packaging and delivery.
Egg-News
  • Total shell inventory was 2.2 percent lower after a 2.9 percent decrease during the previous week. It is now apparent that the inventory held by chains and other significant distributors may be more important in establishing wholesale price than the USDA regional inventory figures published weekly, especially over the short term. The seasonal strategy of retailers is to adjust purchases only in response to retail demand and to hold down inventories in their DCs and stores while marking up shelf margins and pressuring suppliers for rapid replenishment of stocks to DCs and through DSD. Market data suggests that chains have priced generic white eggs in response to prevailing demand and are infrequently featuring generic Large or Extra large.

 

  • Due to the depletion of more than 31.4 million hens through June 6th due to HPAI, unseasonal unit revenue will now be a reality through June into summer, even without the extension of HPAI to additional complexes.

 

  • The current relationship between producers and chain buyers based on a single price discovery system constitutes an impediment to a free market. The benchmark price amplifies both downward and upward swings as at present and functions to the detriment of the industry over the long term. A CME quotation based on Midwest Large, responding to demand relative to supply would be more equitable.

 

  • According to the USDA the U.S. flock in production was re-estimated to 290.3 million hens during the week ending June 13th. This figure presumably reflects the loss of 31.4 million hens to date depleted as a result of confirmed HPAI in twelve large egg-production complexes and additional losses on eight smaller farms. The producing flock includes about 2.0 million molted hens that resumed production during the past week. Wholesale margins declined over the past three weeks despite attaining the highest levels for the corresponding weeks in May and June since the 2015 epornitic. The current price for all sizes and categories is a response to flock depletion coupled with sustained demand. The USDA reports include recent diagnoses in Pennsylvania, Utah and Colorado flocks through early June.

 

  • There is some prospect of a return in the food service sector and with frozen and dried egg prices moderately higher over the past two weeks. The ex-farm price for breaking stock on average was 3.0 percent lower this past week at 160.5 cents per dozen. Checks delivered to Midwest plants were down 8.7 percent to 147.0 cents per dozen. The relative movement in prices for shell inventory and breaking stock suggests lower demand for egg products. Prices for breaking stock will remain high in relation to season for the duration of the recovery period from the epornitic as replacement flocks are reared, reminiscent of 2015-2016. The U.S. economy is clearly reopening. Despite increased COVID incidence rates in some areas hospitalizations and fatalities are declining in the nation.

 

Week in Review

 

Prices

According to the USDA Egg Market News Reports released on June 13th, the Midwest wholesale price for Extra-large was down 5.5 percent to 188.5 cents per dozen; Large size was down 5.6 percent to 186.5 cents per dozen; Mediums were down 12.3 percent to 164.5 cents per dozen as delivered to DCs. Prices should be compared to the USDA benchmark average 6-Region blended nest-run cost (excluding provisions for packing, packaging materials and transport) of 83.3 cents per dozen during May 2022. The progression of prices during 2022 to date is depicted in the USDA chart reflecting three years of data, updated weekly.

 

 The June 13th 2022 edition of the USDA Egg Market News Report documented a USDA Combined Region value rounded to the nearest cent, of $2.05 per dozen delivered to warehouses for the week ending June 9th 2022. This average price lags current Midwest weekly values by one week. The USDA Combined range for Large in the Midwest was $1.98 per dozen. At the high end of the range, price in the South Central Region attained $2.12 per dozen. The USDA Combined Price last week was approximately $1.32 above the 3-year average. This past week Midwest Large was approximately $1.25 above the corresponding week in 2021. Prices fell slightly this week despite the depletion of 31.4 million hens due to HPAI by the first week of June. Future cases of avian influenza in egg-production complexes may occur with a gap of one month before a sporadic case in a large egg complex at the beginning of June. Diagnoses in backyard flocks denote continued shedding by migratory waterfowl in segments of the Central and Pacific Flyways and sectors of the Mississippi Flyway. Spillover to commercial egg, turkey and broiler flocks may continue as isolated sporadic infections that hopefully will be contained. Prices appear to be following the trend of the 2015 epornitic although for a relatively longer period and at a higher level.

 

Flock Size 

The USDA has adjusted the estimate of flock size this week to reflect the reality of depletion of more than 31.4 million hens through June 6th due to HPAI. According to the USDA the number of producing hens reflecting June 13th (rounded to 0.1 million) was 290.3 million as adjusted by USDA. The total U.S. flock includes molted hens due to come back into production with approximately 4.0 million new pullets reaching maturity during the week, offset by routine flock depletion in addition to losses over the past three months due to HPAI. Based on inventory level the hen population producing eggs should now be in balance with late-Spring consumer demand. Industrial and food service off-take although increasing, has not reverted to pre-COVID levels. Imbalance between supply and demand drove prices upwards to 2015 epornitic levels during April and May. During June prices will continue a shallow decline through the end of the second quarter. Prices of shell eggs and products will however depend on the incidence rate of HPAI and level of inventory although the prospect of incident cases in large complexes is less likely moving through June.

 

According to the USDA the total U.S. egg-flock on June 13th was adjusted to 292.9 million hens including second-cycle birds and those in molt. The nominal difference of 2.6 million between hens in production and total hens is an approximate figure but denotes fewer molted hens due to resume production. At present there are at least 31.4 million fewer hens in both the total and producing flocks with the difference equivalent to 10.7 percent of the pre-HPAI national flock.

INVENTORY LEVELS

 

Cold storage stocks of frozen products in selected regions on June 13th 2022 amounted to 2.559 million pounds (1,163 metric tons) of frozen egg products, 2.2 percent higher than the inventory of 2.505 million lbs. on June 1st 2022. The monthly USDA Cold Storage Report below quantifies a reduction in the actual total stock level.

 

The most recent monthly USDA Cold Storage Report released on May 23rd 2022 documented a total stock of 22.4 million pounds (10,180 metric tons) of frozen egg products on April 30th 2022. This value was down 7.3 percent from the April 30th 2021 value of 24.2 million pounds. April 30th frozen egg inventory was down 7.9 percent from March 31st 2022 due in part to depletion of hens and continuing demand. A total of 84.4 percent of combined inventory (18.90 million lbs.) comprised the categories of “Whole and Mixed” (40.5 percent) and “Unclassified” (43.9 percent). The lack of specificity in classification suggests a big omelet somewhere requiring a more diligent approach to enumerating and reporting inventory by the USDA

 

Shell Inventory

 

The USDA reported that the national stock of generic shell eggs effective June 13th 2022 was down by 2.2 percent after an increase of 2.9 percent during the previous week. This reflects a combination of sustained demand and disposal of more than 31.4 million hens as of June 6th. Combined with breaking stock, the total inventory of shell eggs in the industry is now at 1.76 million cases (1.81 million last week, down 42,800 cases). The U.S. population of laying hens at this time is influenced by hens culled due to HPAI, and includes the population unaffected by HPAI, flocks retained after molting (with an anticipated increase in this category depending on available housing capacity) and started pullets from chick placements in late November 2021. Going forward, older hens will assume a larger proportion of the national flock as more flocks are molted especially as “at risk” pullet flocks have been depleted due to HPAI.

 

Five USDA Regions reported lower stock levels. These are listed in descending order of stock:-

  • The Midwest Region was down 1.4 percent compared to the previous week to 453,400 cases.
  • The South Central Region was down 2.1 percent to 269,400 cases
  • The Southeast Region down 2.4 percent to 253,800 cases
  • The Northeast Region was up 1.9 percent to 162,100 cases.
  • The Southwest Region was up 4.4 percent to 180,500 cases
  • The Northwest Region was down 8.3 percent to 90,200 cases

 

The total USDA six-area stock of commodity eggs comprised 1,762,500 cases, down 2.4 percent, of which 78.2 percent were shell eggs (78.7 percent last week). The inventory of breaking stock was down 3.1 percent to 373,100 cases, compared to shell eggs at 2.2 percent. The decrease in breaking stock suggests a higher demand for liquids with less diversion from the shell market. This impression is supported by disproportionately lower prices for checks and breaking stock combined is now about 82 percent of the average value of Extra Large and Large shell eggs combined (last week 85 percent). The price for breaking stock and for checks is influenced by the relative demand for generic shell eggs and contract obligations with breakers. This past week shell eggs declined 5.5 percent in wholesale price but breaking stock and checks were on average 6.1 percent lower.

 

On June 13th 2022 the inventory of other than generic eggs (with the previous week in parentheses) comprised:-

  • Specialty category, down 14.5 percent to 34,200 cases. (was up 16.4 % to 39,151 cases)
  • Certified Organic, down 1.7 percent to 106,900 cases. (was up 9.5 % to 108,700 cases)
  • Cage-Free category, down 2.1 percent to 282,100 cases. (was up 2.1 % to 288,100 cases)

 

Demand for cage-free product will not increase materially while generic eggs from caged flocks and surplus down-classified cage-free eggs are on the shelf at $1.60 to $1.70 per dozen during normal supply conditions over the long term. Existing and proposed individual state legislation mandating sale of only cage-free eggs will support most of the anticipated transition from cages but total re-housing will not be completed, if ever, by the beginning of 2025, less than 30 months away. The California Department of Food and Agriculture has issued a revised draft of regulations based on Proposition #12 for comment but the Agency is two years late in releasing a final version resulting in a court-ordered moratorium on implementation for sow housing. The constitutional status of Proposition #12 will be considered by SCOTUS with specific attention to the Dormant Commerce Clause relating to interstate trade. With the current proportion of non-caged flocks, cage-free eggs are surplus to demand in some areas and are becoming a commodity in many markets subjected to the same price pressures as generic eggs from caged hens. Growth in demand for organic product is static.

 

Long-term demand for cage-free eggs is influenced by the relative shelf prices of the category in comparison with generic white-shelled eggs from caged flocks. At the other end of the price range, consumers will purchase less-expensive brown cage-free product over organic eggs when there is a differential in price greater than about $1.20 per dozen under normal balance between supply and demand. Similarly, consumers will normally purchase white-shelled generic eggs in preference to brown-shelled cage-free with a differential of over $1.20 per dozen.

 

The need for comprehensive structured statistically relevant market research on the willingness to pay for attributes such as housing, shell color, GM status and nutritional enrichment. As in 2015, the ongoing 2022 HPAI epornitic will provide a valuable opportunity for economists to determine the price elasticity for eggs provided funding is made available to agricultural economists at Midwest Land Grant University.

 

RELATIVE PRICES OF SHELL-EGG CATEGORIES

USDA-AMS posted the following June 10th National Retail shell egg prices for dozen cartons:-

Large generic white $2.78 down up 40.4 percent from June 2nd at $1.98

Large cage-free brown $2.78 up 9.1 percent from June 2nd at $2.55

 

 The following advertised retail prices for the week ending June 13th 2022, (compared with the previous week in parentheses) were posted by the AMS on June 6th for dozen packs:

USDA Certified Organic, Brown, Large: $3.86 ($4.27)*

Cage-Free Brown, Large: $3.16 ($2.50)*

Omega-3 Enriched Specialty, White, Large: $2.49 ($2.44)*

Generic White, Large Grade AA $2.69 ($1.83)*

Generic White, Large Grade A (Feature price) $2.73 ($2.93)*

* Adjusted USDA price

 

The average advertised retail price last week as determined by the USDA-AMS for generic white Large Grade AA was $2.69 per dozen with negligible promotions during the immediate past week. Higher shelf prices will probably not affect demand for generic categories given the advertised prices for cage-free brown. Current supply is probably now higher than demand as the industry continues to divert fewer shell eggs to breaking and to deliver to DCs and stores to replenish inventory. This is consistent with a 2.2 percent decrease in industry stock compared to a decrease of 2.9 percent during the previous week. Demand for shell eggs remains moderately high coupled with reduced supply as a result of outbreaks of HPAI that have affected both in-line breakers and shell egg segments of the industry. Retail demand will continue to be supported by home cooking and baking and reinforced by dining out as COVID restrictions are lifted but limited among some demographics by inflation.

 

For the current week the USDA benchmark-advertised retail price of brown Cage-Free was up 26.4 percent or 66 cents per dozen to $3.16 per dozen. (last week USDA advertised price was $2.50 per dozen). Advertised promotional price for certified organic was down by 9.6 percent or $0.41 per dozen to $3.56 compared to the previous week at $4.27 per dozen. This week the difference in advertised price between cage-free brown and certified organic was $0.70 per dozen ($2.69 per dozen last week) suggesting higher demand for certified organic compared to cage free brown during the current week. The differential in advertised price between cage-free brown and the actual price of generic white was $0.47 per dozen. Large week-to-week percentage fluctuations can be expected in the stock of specialty and organic eggs based on the small base of these categories.

 

This past week advertised price for cage-free white at $2.56 per dozen, was $0.60 cents lower than cage-free brown at $3.16 per dozen

 

Features for the major categories this week by proportion included Organic (23.5 percent down fractionally from 24.9 percent last week); Cage-free (22.8 percent, down substantially from 50.0 percent) and Omega-3 enriched (50.4 percent, up from 18.4 percent). Other categories amounted to 3.3 percent of features with Large predominating at 3.0 percent of the total. There are now proportionately fewer young hens in the national flock and relatively high prices prevail for breaking stock.

 

USDA Cage-Free Data

According to the latest monthly USDA Cage-free Hen Report released on June 1st 2022, the number of certified organic hens during May 2022 was down 0.5 percent from April 2022 at 18.0 million. This is 1.1 percent lower than the average of 18.2 million during Q1 of 2022.

 

The USDA reported the cage-free (non-organic) flock to be 1.5 percent lower to 88.5 million in May 2022. This is 3.9 percent lower than the average of 92.9 million during Q1 of 2022.

 

According to the USDA the population of hens producing cage-free and certified organic eggs in May 2022 comprised:-

Total U.S. flock held for USDA Certified Organic production = 18.0 million (18.2 million in Q1 2022).

Total U.S. flock held for cage-free production = 88.5 million (92.9 million in Q1 2022).

Total U.S. non-caged flock =106.5 million (111.1 million in Q1 2022).

 

This total value represents 32.9 percent (last month 33.6 percent) of a nominal 324 million total U.S. flock (but 36.1 percent of the national flock after February through May HPAI mortality to 298 million). Hens certified under the USDA Organic program have decreased in proportion to cage-free flocks since Q1 2021.

 

The accuracy of individual monthly values is questioned given a history of either sharp changes or no change in successive months as documented over the past two years. Precise quarterly reports would be more suitable for the industry in planning expansion and allocation of capital.

 

Processed Eggs

For the processing week ending June 13th 2022 the quantity of eggs processed under FSIS inspection during the week as reported on June 15th 2022 was up 5.4 percent compared to the previous processing week to a level of 1,460,781 cases (1,385,946 cases last week). The proportion of eggs broken by in-line complexes was 45.1 percent (47.4 percent for the past week) denoting more diversion of non-contracted eggs to breaking despite loss of hens at in-line complexes. This trend is apparent in the lower prices for breaking stock and checks. The relative prices of eggs for shell sales and breaking will determine the movement of uncommitted eggs. This past week 68.9 percent of egg production was directed to the shell market, (70.7 percent for the previous week) consistent with relatively higher prices offered by shell egg packers. Breaking stock inventory was down 3.1 percent this past week to 373,100 cases. There is evidence of a slight recovery in the food service sector, especially for QSRs and casual dining, complemented by increased demand from baking and eat-at-home. During the corresponding processing week in 2020 (during-COVID) in-line breakers processed 51.8 percent of eggs broken.

 

For the most recent monthly report dated June 4th 2022, yield from 5,925,598 cases (7,020,082 cases last month) denoted a decrease in demand for liquid over the period May 1st 2022 through May 28th 2022. Edible yield was 41.5 percent, distributed in the following proportions expressed as percentages:- liquid whole, 62.7; white, 23.3; yolk, 11.1; dried, 2.9.

 

All eggs broken during 2021 attained 77.8 million cases, 2.6 percent more than 2020. Eggs broken in 2022 to date attained 34.756 million cases, 5.4 percent more than for the corresponding period in 2021. This is attributed to increasing demand for egg liquids from retail, food service and QSRs and casual dining restaurants with restoration of service as COVID restrictions are relaxed, despite inflation. Demand has however tapered lower since late April.

 

Consumption of liquids is still moderately constrained by COVID-19 home-cooking resulting in diversion of breaking stock into the shell market partly balanced by a large reduction in hens dedicated to breaking.

 

PRODUCTION AND PRICES

 

Breaking Stock

 

The average price for breaking stock was down 3.0 percent this past week to an average of 160.5 cents per dozen with a wide range of 155 to 166 cents per dozen delivered to Central States plants on June 13th. Checks were down 8.7 percent this past week to an average of 147.0 cents per dozen over a range of 146 to 148 cents per dozen. Average revenue for both breaking stock and checks should be compared to the benchmark production cost for nest-run Large, estimated by the USDA at 83.3 cents per dozen for May 2022.

 

Shell Eggs

 

The USDA Egg Market News Report released on June 13th 2022 confirmed that Midwest prices for Extra Large and Large sizes were down 5.5 percent compared to the previous week. Mediums were lower by 12.0 percent. Prices were lower this past week despite a 2.2 percent decrease in inventory. This suggests progressively lower, but unseasonably high prices extending through June. There is less concern over additional HPAI outbreaks that have resulted in the culling of 31.4 million hens to date in thirteen large complexes and eight small flocks in nine states. Retailers were previously operating with depleted stock due to deferring some purchases in anticipation of lower prices in early June as guided by the historical values generated by the discovery system in use.

 

The following table lists the “most frequent” ranges of values as delivered to warehouses*:-

Size/Type

Current Week

Previous Week

Extra Large

187-190 cents per dozen

198-201 down 5.5%

Large

185-188 cents per dozen

196-199 down 5.6%

Medium

163-166 cents per dozen

186-189 down 12.3%

Certified Organic EL

275-310 cents per dozen

Unchanged long term

Breaking stock

155-166 cents per dozen

155-176 down 3.0%

Checks

146-148 cents per dozen

160-162 down 8.7%

*Store Delivery approximately 5 cents per dozen more than warehouse price

 

The June 13th 2022 Midwest Regional (IA, WI, MN.) average FOB producer prices, for nest-run, grade-quality white shelled eggs, with prices in rounded cents per dozen were lower from last week, with the previous week in parentheses:-

  1. $1.78 ($1.88), (estimated by proportion): L. $1.69 ($1.80): M. $1.45 ($1.68)

 

The June 13th 2022 California prices per dozen for cage-free, certified as Proposition #12-compliant product in cartons delivered to a DC, (with the previous week in parentheses) confirmed large size down 2.9 percent for the week on reduced concern over HPAI.

  1. $2.71 ($2.79); L. $2.64 ($2.72); M. $2.19 ($2.51)

(See the text, tables and figures and the review of production data and prices comprising the USDA Report for May in this edition and the Third Quarter 2022 results for Cal-Maine Foods under the Statistics Tab)

 

Shell-Egg Demand Indicator

 

The USDA-AMS Shell Egg Demand Indicator for June 15th was down 1.1 points from the last weekly report to 5.0 with a 2.2 percent decrease in inventory from the past week as determined by the USDA-ERS as follows:- 

 

Productive flock

290,267,225 million hens 1

Average hen week production

83.2%(was 82.9%)

Average egg production

241,464,354 per day

Proportion to shell egg market

68.9% (was 68.6%)

Total for in-shell consumption

 462,051 cases per day

USDA Inventory

1,389,400 cases

26-week rolling average inventory

5.01 days

Actual inventory on hand

4.77 days

Shell Egg Demand Indicator

5.0 points (was 6.1 on June 8th 2022)

Note 1: USDA Flock numbers were adjusted after incident cases of HPAI in mid-May. The hen population takes into account the depletion of approximately 29.7 million hens following HPAI outbreaks in twelve large complexes and eight smaller cases in nine states.

 

Dried Egg Products

 

The USDA extreme range in prices for dried albumen and yolk products in $ per pound was released on June 10th. Data is compared to the previous months to illustrate the trend in prices:-

 

Whole Egg

$15.00-$16.00

Average March $7.68 Feb. $4.33

Yolk

$13.00-$14.60

Average March $6.37 Feb. $3.68

Spray-Dried White

$17.00-$19.15

Average March $9.81 Feb. $4.83

Blends

No quotation

 

Frozen Egg Products

 

The USDA extreme range in prices for frozen egg products in cents per lb. on June 10th 2022 compared to the previous week were on average higher but suggesting restoration of a balance between available products and demand from the manufacturing and retail sectors:-

Whole Egg

$2.75 - $2.55

$2.84 - $3.20

White

$1.55 - $2.30

$1.65 - $2.30

Average for Yolks

$3.65 - $3.77

$3.65 - $3.72

 

The USDA has not released a report on dried egg inventory since March 13th 2020 due to an inability to obtain data from producers, and will not issue reports for the immediate future.

 

COMMENTS

 

Prevalence rates from APHIS surveys of migratory waterfowl in the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways confirmed that these free-living birds were shedding the H5 avian influenza virus with an Eurasian lineage from late January onwards. This is confirmed by outbreaks in either backyard flocks or combinations of commercial egg complexes, broiler and turkey growing farms among the four flyways.

 

The sequence of outbreaks in commercial egg-producing flocks with the date confirmed by the NVSL* comprises:-

  • February 23rd New Castle County, DE. Egg-production complex, 1.2 million
  • March 5th Cecil County, MD. Egg-production complex, 1.2 million
  • March 8th New Castle County, DE. Pullets, 0.3 million
  • March 11th Taylor County, IA. Egg-production complex, 1.2 million
  • March 14th Jefferson County, WI. Egg-production complex. 3.0 million
  • March 18th Buena Vista County, IA. Egg-production complex. 5.0 million
  • March 23rd Cecil County, MD. Pullets. 0.3 million
  • March 23rd Kingsbury County, SD. Egg-production complex. 0.1 million
  • March 26th. Franklin County, IA. Pullets. 0.3 million
  • March 28th Guthrie County, IA. Egg-production Complex. 1.5 million
  • March 31st Osceola County, IA. Egg-production Complex. 5.0 million
  • April 2nd Humboldt County, IA. Parent breeders. 15,000 hens
  • April 12th Dixon County, NE. Egg-production Complex 2.1 million hens
  • April 12th Morrison County, MN. Egg-production Complex 0.2 million hens
  • April 16th Lancaster County, PA. Egg-production Complex 1.4 million hens
  • April 20th Lancaster County, PA. Egg-production Complex 1.1 million hens
  • April 20th Lancaster County, PA. Egg-production Complex 0.9 million hens
  • April 25th Cache County, UT. Egg-production Complex 1.6 million hens
  • April 26th Lancaster County, PA. Egg-production complex 0.3 million hens
  • April 27th Lancaster County, PA. Pullets <0.1 million
  • April 28th. Knox County, NE. Egg-production Complex. 2.1 million hens
  • April 29th Weld County, CO. Egg-production Complex. 1.1 million hens.
  • May 10th Lancaster County, PA. Egg-production Farm. <0.1 million hens
  • May 15th Berks County, PA. Egg-production Farm. <0.1 million hens
  • May 15th Berks County, PA. Layer-breeder Farm. <0.1 million hens
  • May 17th Berks County, PA. Layer-breeder Farm. <0.1 million hens
  • June 7th Weld County, CO. Layer-breeder Farm. 1.7 million hens
  • * Field diagnosis and presumptive state laboratory diagnoses with flock depletion generally occur a few days before official confirmation by NVSL

 

To date (May 27th) approximate losses in commercial flocks with confirmed HPAI include:-

  • 2,400,000 broilers on 12 farms
  • 92,000 broiler breeders on 3 farms
  • 5,460,000 turkeys on 131 farms
  • 31,400,000 egg-production hens and 850,000 pullets on 24 locations in 9 states. Pullet mortality does not include “at risk” replacements depleted on affected complexes.

 

Increasingly frequent reports from the E.U. document shedding of H5N1 and other H5 strains by migratory waterfowl with mortality in wild birds recorded in Holland, Israel, Italy, Ireland, France, Poland, Romania, Estonia, Bulgaria and the U.K., in addition to isolation of AI virus from waterfowl, raptors and some wild species. Outbreaks of HPAI are occurring on commercial farms attributed to contact between wild birds and both domestic chicken, turkey and duck flocks, many of which are usually allowed access to pasture. Most veterinary authorities in Western Europe are still advising or mandating flock confinement with prospects of relaxation due to lower rates of recovery of H5N1 HPAI from migratory waterfowl in Serbia, the U.K. and the Netherlands. Avian influenza strains H5 and H7 persist in Western and Eastern Europe, Asia and both Western and Southern Africa. France is experimenting with a DNA vaccine in commercial waterfowl.

 

Webinars have been presented by USPOULTRY and USDA-APHIS to increase the level of awareness of biosecurity on egg-producing farms. USDA has not provided any guidance on risk factors contributing to infection in the 2022 epornitic.

 

Backyard flocks that are allowed outside access will be at risk of infection although these clusters of birds in suburban areas are of minimal significance in the epidemiology of avian influenza in the commercial industry. They serve as indicators of the presence of virus among free-living birds.

 

The level of biosecurity in commercial poultry production complexes is appreciably higher than in 2015 when the U.S. experienced an epornitic along the Mississippi Flyway The response of state and federal authorities sice this time has been rapid and effective both in diagnosing and depleting affected flocks. To date, all floor-housed flocks that were infected were depleted using foam. Euthanasia of egg production complexes involved various combinations of VSD+ with heat or carbon dioxide.

 

The role of migratory waterfowl in dissemination of H5N1 HPAI virus is indicated by the close proximity of infected complexes and their counties with major waterways, lakes, wetlands or reservoirs.

 

It would have been helpful for APHIS epidemiologists to have reported on their findings from the epidemiologic questionnaires completed following outbreaks on commercial farms. It is important for the Industry to know the possible routes of infection and whether any obvious defects in structural or operational biosecurity have contributed to outbreaks. This would have facilitated appropriate preventive action and allocation of additional resources to intensified biosecurity. A preliminary opinion with guidance during mid-April 2022 was not an unrealistic request and an interim report by early-May may have provided more value than a comprehensive document in 2023 or later.