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Not the turkey! UK faces a shortage of turkey meat as bird flu crisis bites

Half of free-range turkeys and geese grown for the festive period have died or been culled due to avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1, UK MPs have been told.

The highly-infectious bird flu (avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1) has been sweeping across Britain for more than a year now but has gained pace in recent weeks and devastated poultry farmers’ businesses across the UK.

The bird flu is especially deadly for farmed animals such as turkeys and geese.

The British Poultry Council has warned of a turkey shortage this winter as a result of a bird flu outbreak.

The British Poultry Council chief executive, Richard Griffiths, told the environment, food and rural affairs committee on Tuesday that free-range poultry had been hit “very, very hard”.

According to officials, about 600,000 of the usual 1.2 million to 1.3 million free-range turkeys and geese grown for Christmas had already been “directly affected” by the disease, citing reports by The Guardian.

Overall poultry exports fell by 69% in the first quarter of the year, in addition to significantly impacting business viability.

Chicken saw a 62% decrease in volume and a 67% fall in value, from around £90m (about R1.9 billion) to just £30m, according to UK Government statistics.

According to the UK government on 5 December, since the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 outbreak in October, in the United Kingdom, there have been 140 confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1.

There have been 260 cases of (HPAI) H5N1 in England since the H5N1 outbreak started in October 2021.

The cases break down is as follows:

127 cases in England

9 cases in Scotland

3 cases in Wales

1 case in Northern Ireland

There have been 260 cases of (HPAI) H5N1 in England since the H5N1 outbreak started in October 2021.

South Africa affected

South African retailer Woolworths also said that its stores won’t be stocking any turkeys this year due to ‘global supply issues’.

Responding to a customer query on Twitter on Tuesday, Woolworths said:

“We won’t be stocking frozen turkeys this year because of global supply issues. We’re super sorry about this, and we hope you’ll consider some of our other festive centre-piece foods instead.”

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