In mid-April, a sudden outbreak of bird flu in Europe, Africa, and Asia began tearing through the continents, leading to as many as 36 million chickens and turkeys dead in the U.S and a triggering spike in egg prices. Already, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), the Nigerian Customs Service, and other government health agencies have started implementing measures to prevent the importation of any infected birds and curtail a possible local outbreak of the disease.
As the U.S and Europe implement strict lockdown on birds such as egg-laying hens (which have traditionally always had free access to the outdoors) shoppers are buying up all egg stocks in stores. However, U.S government officials have stated that there is no need to panic and that the onus is on retailers and egg companies who must do a better job of keeping their birds inside and away from any infected animals. They also stated that while the virus is nearly 100% fatal, it is almost entirely exclusive to birds, with experts saying that the risk of human infection is quite low.
In France, however, where the government has temporarily required farmers to keep their chickens indoors, some retailers have been discovered to be defying the orders, including a refusal to post clear, concise information for consumers on the mandate. When queried, several claimed not to have heard the news and insisted that free-range was the best way to raise chickens.
But the U.S Department for Agriculture and other such officials have pointed out that barns can be comfortable and chickens do not need to go outside every day. “Confinement gives us safety,” said Gregory Martin, a Poultry Scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. “Only live birds can produce eggs, so it is to our advantage to keep our birds safe.”