Survey Finds Avian Flu Could Cause Drop in U.S. Poultry Market

If a case of avian flu is discovered in a United States poultry flock, it's likely that poultry consumption would decline and the level of decline would also be likely to vary in different parts of the nation, according to a survey by Kansas State University.

Two thousand people were surveyed by mail in Wichita, Kan., and Los Angeles (1,000 in each city) to find out their reactions to various food safety situations. About 30 percent responded to the Food Safety Consortium-funded survey with the higher response rate coming from Wichita.

The avian flu scenario presented in the survey supposed that a case of the disease was found in Montana and asked how respondents' poultry consumption would change.

"Seventy percent of Wichitans said their consumption wouldn't change, whereas the corresponding percent for Los Angeles was 50 percent," said Sean Fox, a KSU agricultural economics professor who supervised the research. Fourteen percent of Los Angeles respondents said they would stop consuming poultry entirely while only 7 percent in Wichita said they would do so.

Fox explained that the survey was designed to quantify the potential impact on the poultry industry of a domestic avian flu outbreak. No outbreaks have occurred in the United States, but a 2003 outbreak in Southeast Asia spread to 41 other countries in the next four years, more than 300 million poultry in Asia were lost.

"We figured the risk to commercial poultry flocks in the United States was very low, but there were indications that bird flu was being carried by migratory birds and the chances of it appearing in a wild bird were reasonably high, though it hasn't happened yet," Fox said.

The discovery of avian flu in the United States might result in restrictions against the nation's poultry by importing countries. If that happened, Fox noted, prices of birds would decrease and production would then be reduced. "We don't yet have estimates of what the supply response would be," he said. "Knowing or getting an estimate of what the demand reduction might be would give us an estimate of what the price reduction would be."

For more information, go to www.uark.edu/depts/fsc.

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