Bird Flu – an Intensive Subject

Chicken farming

Every poultry farmer is potentially vulnerable, but the reality is that despite the birds having less natural immunity, biosecurity is more easily managed in intensive, indoor units. A sad and unjust paradox given its occurrence has almost certainly been exacerbated by the massive increase in worldwide poultry numbers, made possible by large scale factory farming.

Wild birds are often blamed for spreading bird flu along migratory routes, but according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture, “Avian influenza viruses are evolving into a large, diverse virus gene pool… A pathogen may turn into a hyper-virulent disease agent – in monocultures involving mass rearing of genetically identical animals that are selected for high feed conversion, an emerging hyper-virulent pathogen will rapidly spread within a flock or herd.”

Several of our suppliers have already been affected and the government has just announced that all birds must be brought indoors in the run up to Christmas. We’ve always seen free-range as a minimum acceptable standard, not just for animal welfare reasons but also because it almost, by definition, limits the amount of meat produced, de-commodifying it in the process. Yes, it is more expensive, but for all manner of reasons, worth it. Sadly, it seems that none of our birds can be truly free-range until the government ban is lifted and we’ll continue to support our farmers whose flocks have had to be temporarily housed. Our emphasis here is ‘temporarily’ – as soon as the ban is lifted, we’ll expect our suppliers to return their flocks to the great outdoors. 

If you’re worried about Christmas, our turkey man, Johnny Malseed of Frenchbeer Farm has the benefit of being a long way from the coast (where things are definitely worse), and reasonably isolated on the edge of Dartmoor, so we’re hoping for the best…

If you do want to pre-order your Christmas turkey, you can visit our online Christmas shop.