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Bird Flu at Tyson Facility Underscores Need for More Organic Practices

March 06, 2017
Center for Food Safety


Bird Flu at Tyson Facility Underscores Need for More Organic Practices

Higher animal welfare is critical to healthier, safer flocks

WASHINGTON— Avian flu was detected in a Tennessee-based poultry breeding operation contracted by Tyson Foods, Inc., the largest chicken meat producer in the United States. This event demonstrates that confining birds indoors for their entire lives in no way safeguards against disease. The pathogen responsible for bird flu becomes more lethal in large, over-crowded, confined, indoor farming operations like those contracted by food giant Tyson. Preventing these deadly outbreaks requires reforming how chickens are raised. Strategies implemented by many organic chicken producers, for example, such as access to the outdoors, low densities, and adequate lighting, are necessary to raise chickens and other food animals in the most healthy, safe, and sustainable manner.

The following is a statement from Cameron Harsh, Senior Manager of Organic and Animal Policy at the Center for Food Safety:

“This outbreak is a prime example of why food animal producers should be looking to organic and humane practices. Dark, confined, poorly-sanitized spaces that pack animals to the brim and provide no access to the outdoors are ideal environments for the rapid spread of devastating viruses like bird flu.

“Tyson and other large producers need to take a hard look at the ways their management practices are harmful to the farmers under their contracts, the animals, the environment, and public health.

“Tyson’s recent announcement that it would be phasing out routine use of all antibiotics in its chicken was a positive step forward, and must be coupled with improved living conditions that protect the health and welfare of the birds. Improving the welfare of animals, such as by eliminating unnecessary antibiotics or adopting strong organic practices, are key to a safe and sustainable food system.”


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