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Largest U.S. fresh egg producer confronts avian flu outbreaks in Texas, Michigan plants

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On Tuesday, the primary producer of fresh eggs in the United States, Cal-Maine Foods, Inc., revealed a temporary cessation of production at its Texas plant following the detection of avian flu among chickens. Simultaneously, authorities disclosed the presence of the virus at a poultry facility situated in Michigan.

Cal-Maine Foods, Inc., headquartered in Ridgeland, Mississippi, disclosed that around 1.6 million laying hens and 337,000 pullets, constituting roughly 3.6% of its total flock, were euthanized after avian influenza was identified at its Parmer County, Texas facility. The plant lies along the Texas-New Mexico border in the Texas Panhandle, approximately 85 miles southwest of Amarillo and about 370 miles northwest of Dallas.

In a statement, the company expressed its ongoing collaboration with federal, state, and local government entities alongside focused industry groups to mitigate future outbreaks and efficiently manage the response. Measures include securing production from alternate facilities to minimize disruptions to consumers. Cal-Maine Foods reassured the public that eggs currently available in the market pose no bird flu risk, emphasizing the safety of properly handled and cooked eggs as validated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This announcement coincided with reports from state health officials indicating a diagnosed case of bird flu in a person with presumed contact with infected cows. Despite this development, the public health risk remains deemed low. Meanwhile, in Michigan, the state’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development confirmed avian flu detection at a commercial poultry facility in Ionia County, verified by Michigan State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

State law precludes the disclosure of specific poultry types at the Ionia facility, as stated by department spokesperson Jennifer Holton. The affected facility has been placed under quarantine, with assurances from the department regarding unimpeded supply chain operations across the state. Notably, the human case in Texas marks the first documented instance globally of a person contracting this strain of bird flu from a mammal.

Recent reports of bird flu infections in dairy cows in Texas and Kansas, followed by confirmations in a Michigan dairy herd receiving cows from Texas, underscored the wider ramifications of the outbreak. Cal-Maine Foods primarily distributes its eggs across the Southwestern, Southeastern, Midwestern, and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, with ongoing vigilance amid the evolving situation.

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