Egg Week

09/29/2022

USDA Weekly Egg Price and Inventory Report, September 29th 2022.

Market Overview

  • The average wholesale unit revenue for Midwest Extra-large and Large sizes were higher by a substantial 25.5 percent on average, maintaining the ongoing trend of unseasonal high prices. Mediums were up by 16.3 percent extending their upward trajectory although supply will increase as many pullet flocks enter production, placing price pressure on this size. Retail sales are projected to be relatively higher over the short-term given low stock levels and constrained production. Both retail prices and demand will continue higher than in previous years sustained by consumer perceptions of value in an inflationary environment with a high cost for protein. Availability and hence prices are influenced by depletion of close to 36 million hens in 15 large complexes in ten states extending from the last week in February through September 21st.
  • Total industry inventory decreased 0.9 percent overall this past week to 1.54 million cases with a 3.5 percent increase in shell eggs and a concurrent 9.8 percent decrease in breaking stock. Wholesale unit prices during the first half of 2022 through July contrasted favorably with the corresponding periods in both 2020 and 2021 characterized by low ex-plant unit revenue. Generic eggs are still yielding high positive margins given the USDA benchmark average combined costs for nest-run of 82.5 cents per dozen in August (feed, chicks, housing, labor and fuel), In addition the average cost of grading, packaging and delivery amounted to approximately 50 cents per dozen according to the EIC.
  • It is now apparent that the inventory held by chains and other significant distributors may be more important to 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 only seldom featuring Medium and Extra Large sizes.
  • Due to the depletion of close to 36 million hens through September 21st as a result of HPAI, unseasonal high unit revenue will now be a reality through fall. Prices will progressively decline as flocks are restocked until the pre-Thanksgiving rise. The occurrence and extent of further outbreaks of HPAI cannot be assessed until more information is revealed concerning the molecular and field epidemiology relating to cases suggesting modes of transmission and possible deficiencies in biosecurity on affected complexes with identification of specific risk factors.
  • 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 noted during March to the present. The benchmark functions to the detriment of the industry over the long term and a CME quotation based on Midwest Large, reflecting demand relative to supply would be more equitable. If feed cost is determined by the CME then so should generic shell eggs.
  • According to the USDA the U.S. flock in production was down 4.5 million or 1.5 percent to 279.9 million hens during the week ending September 28th. The flock in production includes about 2.0 million molted hens that resumed lay during the past week plus 4.0 million pullets attaining production.
  • There is some prospect of a return in the food service sector but with frozen and dried egg prices stable or moderately higher over the past three weeks. The ex-farm price for breaking stock was up 22.8 percent this past week to 263 cents per dozen. Checks delivered to Midwest plants were 35.9 percent higher to 265 cents per dozen. Prices for breaking stock will remain high in relation to season for the duration of the recovery period as replacement flocks are reared, reminiscent of 2015-2016.

 

Week in Review

Prices

According to the USDA Egg Market News Reports released on September 26th the Midwest wholesale price (rounded to one cent) for Extra-large was up 25.5 percent to $3.62 per dozen. Large size was up 25.5 percent to $3.60 per dozen; the Medium price was up 16.3 percent to $2.50 per dozen as delivered to DCs. Prices should be compared to the USDA benchmark average 6-Region blended nest-run cost of 82.5 cents per dozen (excluding provisions for packing, packaging materials and transport amounting to 50 cents per dozen according to the EIC) during August 2022. The progression of prices during 2022 to date is depicted in the USDA chart reflecting three years of data, updated weekly.

The September 26th 2022 edition of the USDA Egg Market News Report documented a USDA Combined Region value rounded to the nearest cent, of $3.15 per dozen delivered to warehouses for the week ending September 20th 2022. This average price lags current Midwest weekly values by one week. The USDA Combined range for Large in the Midwest was $2.87 per dozen. At the high end of the range, price in the South Central Region attained $3.15 per dozen. The USDA Combined Price last week was approximately $2.25 above the 3-year average. This past week Midwest Large was approximately $1.95 above the corresponding week in 2021 that increased before the Labor Day weekend and held price thereafter. Prices were higher last week due to increased demand despite the increase in shell inventory held by the industry. Potential infection of commercial egg, turkey and broiler flocks with HPAI until recently considered unlikely, resulted in cases among turkeys and broiler breeder flocks in California, growing turkeys in Minnesota and large egg-production complexes in Ohio and Colorado and egg and turkey flocks in a number of Canadian provinces. Prices appear to have following the trend during the 2015 epornitic although for a relatively longer period and at a higher level in 2022.

 

Flock Size 


 

The USDA has adjusted the estimate of flock size to reflect depopulation of more than 31.1 million hens through June 6th due to HPAI with subsequent depopulation of 3 million hens in Defiance County Ohio and 1.1 million in Weld county Colorado during September. According to the USDA the number of producing hens reflecting September 28th (rounded to 0.1 million) was down 4.5 million or 1.5 percent to 297.9 million. The total U.S. flock includes about 2.0 million molted hens due to come back into production with approximately 4.0 million new pullets reaching maturity during the week. The increase is offset by routine flock depletion in addition to losses over the past months of the HPAI epornitic. Based on inventory level the hen population producing eggs should now be slightly lower than consumer demand entering fall. 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 as recorded during April through July. Prices will continue to fluctuate through October but will enter a decline through the fourth quarter as flocks are replaced and demand ebbs until the pre-Thanksgiving surge. Prices of shell eggs and products will depend on the possible emergence of incident outbreaks of HPAI, the contribution of new pullets and of molted hens to supply.

 

According to the USDA the total U.S. egg-flock on September 28th was reduced by 3.7 million to 303.0 million hens including second-cycle birds and those in molt. The nominal difference of 5.1 million between hens in production and total hens is an approximate figure but denotes more molted hens due to resume production. At present there are now at least 28 million fewer hens in both the total and producing flocks with the difference equivalent to about eight percent of the pre-HPAI national flock.

 

INVENTORY LEVELS

Cold storage stocks of frozen products in selected regions on September 26th 2022 amounted to 2.450 million pounds (1,114 metric tons) of frozen egg products, 1.7 percent higher than the inventory of 2.493 million lbs. on September 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 September 22nd 2022 documented a total stock of 25.7 million pounds (11,675 metric tons) of frozen egg products on August 31st 2022. This value was down 4.0 percent from the August 31st 2021 value of 26.8 million pounds.

 

August 31st frozen egg inventory was up 11.7 percent from July 31st 2022 despite depletion of 33.7 million hens. Compared to August 31st 2021 yolks were up 12.6 percent to 841 million lbs.

 

A total of 85.5 percent of combined inventory (22.0 million lbs.) comprised the categories of “Whole and Mixed” (37.5 percent) and “Unclassified” (48.0 percent). The lack of specificity in classification requires 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 September 26th 2022 was up by 3.5 percent after a decrease of 3.7 percent during the previous week. Despite the reversal in the trend this past week four consecutive weekly reductions in stock level confirmed the need for chains to reorder frequently to respond to increased demand that has persisted past the Labor Day weekend. Combined with breaking stock, the total inventory of shell eggs in the industry is now at 1.54 million cases (1.52 million last week, up 42,900 cases). The U.S. population of laying hens at this time is influenced by the number of 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 March 2022. Going forward, older hens will assume a larger proportion of the national flock as more flocks are molted especially as “at risk” pullet flocks were depleted due to HPAI.

 

Five of the six USDA Regions reported higher stock levels this past week. The regions are listed in descending order of stock:-

  • The Midwest Region was up 9.4 percent compared to the previous week to 458,900 cases.
  • The Southeast Region was up 9.4 percent to 239,200 cases
  • The South Central Region was up 2.4 percent to 215,600 cases
  • The Northeast Region was up 0.5 percent to 139,700 cases.
  • The Southwest Region was down 0.2 percent to 134,700 cases
  • The Northwest Region was up 8.6 percent to 72,700 cases

 

The total USDA six-area stock of commodity eggs comprised 1,534,800 cases, up 0.9 percent, of which 82.2 percent were shell eggs (80.0 percent last week). The inventory of breaking stock was down a substantial 9.8 percent to 273,900 cases. Shell eggs were up 3.5 percent to 1,260,900 cases. The lower level of breaking stock suggests movement of uncommitted eggs to the shell market. This conclusion is supported by sustained higher prices for shell eggs compared to breaking stock. The average price for Midwest checks and breaking stock combined is now 73.0 percent of the average value of Midwest Extra-large and Large shell eggs combined (last week 71.4 percent compared to 80 percent in May). 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 the wholesale Midwest Extra- large and Large shell egg prices were higher by an average of 28.5 percent compared to breaking stock and checks up on average by 29.4 percent from the previous week.

 

On September 26th 2022 the inventory of other than generic eggs amounting to 382,400 cases among three categories (with the previous week in parentheses) comprised:-

  • Specialty category, down 3.4 percent to 31,800 cases. (was down 15.2 % to 32,900 cases)
  • Certified Organic, down 6.5 percent to 72,700 cases. (was down 3.7 % to 77,800 cases)
  • Cage-Free category, up 4.0 percent to 277,900 cases. (was up 0.4 % to 267,300 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 $1.80 to $2.00 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 28 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 in early October with specific consideration of 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 has been static for months.

 

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 traditionally 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 is self-evident. As in 2015, the recently concluded 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 national retail shell egg prices for September 23rd in the Egg Markets Overview report for dozen cartons with comparable prices in parentheses for the previous week:-

Large, in cartons generic white $1.90 up 53.2 percent ($1.24)

Large, in cartons cage-free brown $2.71 down 1.1 percent ($2.74)

Large, California in Cartons $3.81 up 16.9 percent ($3.26)

 

Wholesale

National loose, (FOB dock) $2.75 up 0.7 percent ($2.73)

NYC in cartons to retailer $3.95 up 20.5 ($3.27)

Midwest in cartons to warehouse $2.88 up 28.0 percent ($2.25)

The following advertised retail prices for the week ending September 29th 2022, (compared with the previous week in parentheses) were posted by the AMS on September 26th for dozen packs:

USDA Certified Organic, Brown, Large: $3.99 ($3.54)

Cage-Free Brown, Large: $2.74 ($2.64)

Omega-3 Enriched Specialty, White, Large: $2.41 ($2.86)

Generic White, Large Grade A $1.85* ($1.53)*

Generic White, Large Grade A (Feature price) $1.90* ($1.24)

* based on a small sample with few advertised promotions

 

Advertised price this week for Large white grade A based on a very small sample was up 20.9 percent or 32 cents per dozen from a USDA value of $1.53 per dozen to $1.85 per dozen. Higher shelf prices will probably not change the current high demand for generic categories given availability and both high advertised and shelf prices for specialty and cage-free brown eggs. Current supply is probably lower than demand over a three-week period as independent producers continue to divert more shell eggs from breaking and large integrated companies and packers continue delivering to DCs and stores to replenish inventory. This is consistent with successive declines in weekly industry inventory despite an increase during the past week. Demand for shell eggs remains high coupled with reduced supply as a result of outbreaks of HPAI that appear to have resumed. Through February to June both in-line breakers and shell egg segments of the industry were impacted. Retail demand will continue to be supported by home cooking and baking and reinforced by dining out as COVID is now almost ignored. Eggs and product purchases will be limited among some demographics by earnings and inflation.

 

For the current week the USDA benchmark-advertised retail price of brown cage-free was higher as documented by the USDA by 3.8 percent or $0.10 cents per dozen to $2.74 per dozen. (last week USDA advertised price was $2.64 per dozen). Advertised promotional price for certified organic was up by 15.5 percent or $0.55 per dozen to $3.99 compared to the previous week at $3.54 per dozen. This week the difference in advertised price between cage-free brown and certified organic was $1.25 per dozen ($0.90 per dozen last week) suggesting relatively unchanged demand for certified organic over cage-free brown compared to the previous week. 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.

 

Cage free white were advertised at $2.00 per dozen, $0.74 per dozen below cage free brown at $2.74 per dozen

 

Features for the major categories this week by proportion included Organic (6.4 percent substantially lower from 42.7 percent last week); Cage-free (13.4 percent, up from 8.1 percent despite relatively high stock in this category) and Omega-3 enriched, (72.1 percent, up from 17.3 percent). Other categories amounted to 8.1 percent of features with Large predominating at 8.0 percent of all features confirming that high demand for generics did not justify promotion of this category.

 

USDA Cage-Free Data

According to the latest monthly USDA Cage-free Hen Report released on September 2nd 2022, the number of certified organic hens during August 2022 was up 0.6 percent from July 2022 to 18.0 million. This is 0.6 percent lower than the average of 18.1 million during Q2 of 2022.

 

The USDA reported the cage-free (non-organic) flock to be 0.1 percent higher to 87.1 million in August 2022 compared to July. This is 1.3 percent lower than the average of 88.2 million during Q2 of 2022.

 

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

Total U.S. flock held for USDA Certified Organic production = 18.0 million (18.1 million in Q2 2022).

Total U.S. flock held for cage-free production = 87.1 million (88.2 million in Q2 2022).

Total U.S. non-caged flock =105.1 million (106.3 million in Q2 2022).

This total value represents 32.4 percent (last month 32.3 percent) of a nominal 324 million total U.S. flock (but 35.0 percent of the national flock after HPAI mortality to 300 million). Hens certified under the USDA Organic program have decreased in proportion to cage-free flocks since Q1 of 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 September 24th 2022 the quantity of eggs processed under FSIS inspection during the week as reported on September 28th 2022 was down 0.6 percent compared to the previous processing week to a level of 1,452,726 cases (1,478,187 cases last week). The proportion of eggs broken by in-line complexes was 48.9 percent (48.5 percent for the past week), denoting a relatively greater use of in-line eggs. The relative prices of eggs for shell sales and breaking will determine the movement of uncommitted eggs. This past week 69.7 percent of egg production was directed to the shell market, (69.4 percent for the previous week) but with increases in price paid by breakers and shell-egg packers. Breaking stock inventory was down 9.8 percent this past week to 273,900 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 54.0 percent of eggs broken.

 

For the most recent monthly report for week ending September 3rd 2022, yield from 6,085,223 cases (5,846,169 cases last month) denoted a decrease in demand for liquid over the period July 31st 2022 through August 27th 2022. Edible yield was 38.0 percent, distributed in the following proportions expressed as percentages:- liquid whole, 62.5; white, 23.8; yolk, 11.1; dried, 2.6.

 

All eggs broken during 2021 attained 77.8 million cases, 2.6 percent more than 2020. Eggs broken in 2022 to date attained 56.84 million cases, 1.4 percent more than for the corresponding period in 2021. This is attributed to an increased 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 June.

 

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 up 22.8 percent this past week to an average of 263 cents per dozen with a wide range of 250 to 276 cents per dozen delivered to Central States plants on September 26th. Checks were up 35.9 percent this past week to an average of 265 cents per dozen over a narrow range of 264 to 266 cents per dozen. Average revenue for both breaking stock and checks should be compared to the USDA average benchmark production cost for nest-run Large, estimated by the USDA at 82.5 cents per dozen for August 2022.

 

Shell Eggs

The USDA Egg Market News Report dated September 26th 2022 confirmed that Midwest prices for Extra-large and Large sizes were up by 25.5 percent compared to the previous week. Mediums were higher by 16.3 percent. Prices have increased consistent with successive decreases in inventory. This suggests relatively higher values into October as demand persists with a depleted flock.

 

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

Size/Type

Current Week

Previous Week

Extra Large

360-363 cents per dozen

287-289 up 25.5%

Large

358-361 cents per dozen

285-288 up 25.5%

Medium

248-251 cents per dozen

213-216 up 16.3%

Certified Organic EL

275-310 cents per dozen

Unchanged long term

Breaking stock

250-276 cents per dozen

200-206 up 22.8%

Checks

264-266 cents per dozen

194-196 up 35.9%

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

 

The September 26th 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 up 23.5 percent from last week, with the previous week in parentheses:-

  1. $3.53 ($2.95), (estimated by proportion): L. $3.57 ($2.89): M. $2.45 ($1.98)

 

The September 26th 2022 California price per dozen for cage-free, certified as Proposition #12-compliant large product in cartons delivered to a DC, (with the previous week in parentheses) was up 13.9 percent for the week.

  1. $4.44 ($3.91); L. $4.34 ($3.81); M. $2.94 ($2.71)

(See the text, tables and figures and the review of production data and prices comprising the USDA Report for September and the 1st Quarter and FY 2022 results for Cal-Maine Foods under the Statistics Tab)

 

Shell-Egg Demand Indicator


 

The USDA-AMS Shell Egg Demand Indicator for September 28th was down 5.4 points from the last weekly report to 14.3 with a 3.5 percent increase in shell inventory from the past week as determined by the USDA-ERS as follows:-

Productive flock

297,875,967 million hens

Average hen week production

82.6%(was 82.3%)

Average egg production

246,187,622 per day

Proportion to shell egg market

69.7% (was 69.4%)

Total for in-shell consumption

 476,322 cases per day

USDA Inventory

1,260,900 cases

26-week rolling average inventory

4.80 days

Actual inventory on hand

4.20 days

Shell Egg Demand Indicator

14.3 points (was 20.1 on September 21st)

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 36 million hens following HPAI outbreaks in fifteen large complexes and eight smaller units in ten states followed by successive weekly pullet placements.

 

Dried Egg Products

The USDA extreme range in prices for dried albumen and yolk products in $ per pound was released on September 23rd. Data is depicted for the previous week and past months to illustrate the trend in prices attributed to HPAI depopulation:-

Whole Egg

$9.50-$11.75

Average June $14.71

July $13.11

August $11.70

Yolk

$14.00-$15.50

Average June $13.50

July $13.52

August $13.50

Spray-dried white

No quotation, past week

Average June $17.23

July $14.70

August $12.80

Blends

No quotation, past week

 

Frozen Egg Products

The USDA range in prices for frozen egg products in cents per lb. on September 23rd 2022 compared to the previous week were on average lower but indicating a balance between available products and demand from the manufacturing and retail sectors:-

Whole Egg

$2.00 - $2.20

$1.90 - $2.00

White

$1.26 - $1.74

$1.30 - $1.45

Average for Yolks

$3.60 - $3.67

$3.55 - $3.60

 

Prices were not posted by USDA for white and whole liquid egg products this past week. The August averages for non-certified truckload quantities are tabulated (cents per lb.):-

 

Whole 195c, Whites 109c, Yolks 328c (341c this past week)

 

The USDA has not released a report on dried egg inventory since March 13th 2020 due to 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 birds were shedding H5 avian influenza virus expressing Eurasian lineage from late January 2022 onwards. This is confirmed by subsequent outbreaks in backyard flocks and combinations of commercial egg complexes, broiler and turkey growing farms among the four flyways. It is evident that some wild domestic birds are shedding virus based on cases in backyard flocks. This situation requires more intensive monitoring and presumes the need to maintain high levels of biosecurity.

 

Outbreaks in commercial egg-producing flocks extended from February 23rd to September 21st

 

Through September 22nd to date approximate losses in commercial flocks with confirmed HPAI and updates include:-

  • 2,400,000 broilers on 12 farms in 7 states
  • 240,000 broiler breeders on 7 farms in 4 states
  • 6,700,000 turkeys on 157 farms in 7 states
  • 33,700,000 egg-production hens on large complexes above 0.5 million and 1,050,000 pullets on 27 locations in 10 states. Pullet mortality does not include “at risk” replacements depleted on affected complexes with contiguous pullet rearing.

 

Through the second week in September, Canada has recorded 65 outbreaks in 9 provinces and has depopulated 2.4 million commercial poultry including hens, turkeys and broilers.

 

Unlike previous years there are still reports from the E.U. documenting shedding of H5N1 and other H5 strains by migratory waterfowl with mortality in non-anseriform wild birds and in foxes. Outbreaks of HPAI are still occurring on commercial farms in Eastern Europe and recent cases in Lower Saxony in Germany, East Flanders in Belgium and in Groningen and Overijsel in the Netherlands. These outbreaks were attributed to contact with wild birds. Domestic chicken, turkey and duck flocks will be vulnerable, if as usual they are allowed access to pasture. Most veterinary authorities in Western Europe have lifted flock confinement due to lower rates of recovery of H5N1 HPAI from migratory waterfowl but a reversal of this policy is under consideration. Avian influenza strains H5 and H7 persist in Western and Eastern Europe, Asia and both Western and Southern Africa. France is evaluating a DNA vaccine in commercial waterfowl.

 

Backyard flocks that are allowed outside access will continue to be at risk of infection in the U.S. These small clusters of birds in suburban areas are of minimal significance to the epidemiology of avian influenza as it affects the commercial industry. Backyard flocks serve as indicators of the presence of virus among free-living birds as evidenced by three outbreaks on turkey farms in Utah during July and subsequent cases in California and Minnesota at the end of August.

 

The level of biosecurity in commercial egg production complexes and broiler farms 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+ applying heat or carbon dioxide or conventional kill carts flushed with carbon dioxide.

 

The role of migratory waterfowl in introduction and subsequent dissemination of H5N1 HPAI virus is indicated by the close proximity of infected complexes and their counties with major waterways, lakes, wetlands or reservoirs during the spring months of 2022. There is now limited subjective evidence of aerogenous transmission of HPAI over short distances with virus possibly shed by wild birds becoming entrained in dust and introduced into ventilation inlets by powered ventilation systems.

 

It would have been helpful for APHIS epidemiologists to have reported on their findings from the epidemiologic questionnaires completed following outbreaks on commercial farms and with special reference to the first seven large complexes affected through the end of March. The industry should have been advised of possible routes of infection and whether any obvious defects in structural or operational biosecurity 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. This is especially the case since an outbreak ocurred in a broiler breeder flock in Turlock, CA. on August 22nd followed by a second 4 days later with reports of four turkey flocks aong three counties in that state. In addition two cases were diagnosed in turkey flocks in Minnesota on August 30th with large egg complexes in Northwest Ohio and Colorado confirmed during September. This suggests ongoing exposure from wild domestic birds as evidenced by the incidence in backyard flocks that are effectively sentinels.


































































































































































































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