It’s a bad time for many farmers right now. The past year has been the worst year ever for cases of avian influenza, aka “bird flu” in the UK and abroad, and with the winter only beginning, the worst is yet to come.
It’s been looming heavily over the heads of poultry farmers for years, and the virus is so infectious it can be spread by wild birds, farmers themselves, and within flocks.
It’s so infectious, in fact, that it’s unclear how effective a housing order is.
The virus could be transmitted simply by walking into a barn wearing outdoor boots.
This year restrictions have again been implemented by Government, and since November 7, until April/May at the very least, poultry and captive birds have to be housed. With the current government strategy being one of containment, any farmer who experiences an outbreak on the farm will see all of their poultry euthanased and the farm shut down.
A sad statistic is that in October alone over 3 million birds from farms across the UK were culled or died from avian influenza, and the majority of those were turkeys being reared for Christmas.
Restrictions have a knock-on effect; on farming practises, on the birds themselves, which are no longer allowed outside to range freely, and on the consumer at the end of the line.
For us at Farm2Fork, we had all our poultry prepped before these restrictions came into force, so we can guarantee all our meat is pasture-raised under an organic farming system.
Our chickens, turkeys and geese are safely being stored in the freezer, ready for our customers to enjoy later.
If you’re thinking of buying poultry any time now from other producers, then remember that in UK law, as long as the poultry has been housed for less than 16 weeks it can still be marketed as free-range or organic.
Another concern is that free-range and organic farms don’t always have adequate provisions to house their flocks for extended periods of time, compromising the birds’ welfare.
Our seasonal farming system has worked in our favour, as we mitigate the risk of bird flu by raising our poultry in the warmer months and harvesting our birds before the winter flu season sets in.
It means we can promise you that locked-in freshness is guaranteed and that a bird from us has had access to pasture for its entire life (excluding the time inside as chicks).
Bird flu is a terrible disease that not only affects the welfare of poultry but also of farmers who are often not fully compensated and bear the brunt of whatever directives are placed upon them.
Thankfully here on our farm, we’ve kept ahead of the curve for now, but we stay eternally vigilant.