Why Bird Flu Wipes Out Corporate Poultry Farms

Why Bird Flu Wipes Out Corporate Poultry Farms
Science & Medicine

Who would have expected otherwise regarding the degree to which backyard chickens have been spared this year’s unusually decimating bird flu – which has wiped out 26 million birds in Iowa?

“The avian influenza has been particularly damaging in Iowa, where 52 cases have been identified, forcing the destruction of nearly 26 million birds. Commercial flocks have accounted for all but two of those cases.” [1]

The horrible conditions which prevail in corporate chicken farms is just waiting for the perfect storm to blow through. And blow through it did with a bird flu breakout that has forced the premature liquidation of millions of chickens nationwide.

“The biggest infected flock, by far, were the 3 million egg-laying chickens identified this week in Iowa. A spokesman for the Iowa Department of Agriculture tells The Salt that the birds will be euthanized later this week. In this case, the birds may not all be composted. Some could also be buried, or sent to rendering plants.” [2]


In view of the photo above, is it any wonder that disease and/or seasonal illness are very common in these chicken warehouses. Packed in cages (usually less than half a square foot of floor space per bird), 6 hens can become immobilized and die of asphyxiation or dehydration. Decomposing corpses are found in cages with live birds. The chicken housing shown above is quite typical for ‘roughly 95 percent of U.S. commercial eggs which come from hens in battery cages.’

Read: Poultry Industry Giant Goes GMO-Free

“Millions Of Chickens To Be Killed As Bird Flu Outbreak Puzzles Industry”

Why are all the big poultry producers puzzled by the the enormity and intensity of the current flu outbreak? What is actually surprising is how these chickens survive a single season in such cruel and inhumane living conditions. Free range chickens are considerably more healthy and free from disease for obvious reasons. The housing conditions in some chicken farms is so unhygienic and unsanitary that the chicken meat itself is also suspect.

BAOFENG, CHINA - APRIL 17: (CHINA OUT) A health worker sprays disinfectant at a poultry farm on April 17, 2013 in Baofeng, China. China has reported 77 cases of H7N9 avian influenza, including 16 deaths, and the government expect that figure to rise. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)

Perhaps the folks who remain puzzled by this chicken health disaster will consider common sense. When any animal is kept in a cage 24/7, they begin to atrophy physically and emotionally. Their immune systems, in particular, start to become less responsive.

After weeks or months of an ever-weakening immune response, it only takes one infection to blow through a poultry farm with severe consequences. Once it starts, it’s virtually impossible to stop – such is the perfect storm that the corporate farms themselves have set up.

How Safe are the Infected Chickens to Eat?

Many of the euthanized chickens will be sent to rendering plants in which every single body part and tissue that is usable will be processed. Many of those byproducts will end up in other food products or sold to the food processing industry so they will eventually end up on the meal table.

Although this particular bird flu has not jumped over to humans, that does not mean that the processed foods from those infected chickens cannot have other unhealthful effects wherever they are eaten or used in cooking. The poultry industry, however, only considers those flus which have crossed species to have serious enough consequences to be of concern. This represents yet another flaw in their system of poultry farm management, which has certainly put many people at risk – especially those with their own immune system vulnerabilities.


At the end of the day, such callous disregard for the living conditions of large populations of food animals will always have some sort of blowback. Sooner or later the communities of human beings who routinely feed on them will experience their own set of symptoms, illnesses and/or diseases, the more they make these abused animals a part of their regular diet.


[1] USA Today

[2] NPR.org