MPs to probe ‘worst ever’ bird flu endemic

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

MPs are to launch an enquiry into the bird flu endemic
MPs are to launch an enquiry into the bird flu endemic

Related tags Egg Meat & Seafood

MPs are to grill producers and Government agencies over the country’s largest ever outbreak of bird flu.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee is to hold a hearing on the latest outbreak of this highly contagious disease, which is threatening supplies of turkeys for the Christmas trade.

There have also been reports of egg shortages and egg rationing in supermarkets due to the combined effects of avian influenza and soaring costs facing farmers.

Serious and prolonged

Poultry farmers, experts and government agencies dealing with the situation will be questioned on why this outbreak in the UK has been so serious and prolonged – in comparison to previous years – since it first emerged in October 2021.

MPs are also expected to ask how farmers might be compensated by the government for having to comply with housing orders – a requirement to keep their flocks indoors to prevent infection from wild birds – and the implication it has on ‘free-range’ rearing.

Bird flu endemic

There have also been large scale deaths among wild bird populations. Last winter, for example, saw over 16,000 Barnacle Geese die on Scotland’s Solway Firth – a third of the entire breeding population of this species in the area. 

The government has said the disease is now endemic amongst wild birds, which may have implication for how the disease is managed in the future. 

Questions may also be raised surrounding the ‘freeze and thaw’ scheme that allows turkeys to be culled in advance for the Christmas trade.

Egg chain investment

The announcement of EFRA’s enquiry into the bird flu endemic followed news that upmarket retailer Waitrose was to invest £2.6m in the egg supply chain to boost availability.

It comes as multiple retailers announced they were rationing sales of eggs as the impact of rising costs and bird flu continue to ravage the industry.

Commenting on the investment, Waitrose executive director James Bailey said: “Without our farmers, we can’t function as a business. We’ve cultivated longstanding relationships with our suppliers, and paying our farmers fairly and offering our customers free-range British eggs are commitments that we simply won’t sacrifice, even when the going gets tough.”

Related topics Meat, poultry & seafood Environment

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