- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2002

RICHMOND Despite a tough year for Virginia turkey growers, supplies of the birds are plentiful and prices are low as shoppers prepare for holiday feasts.
Neither plague nor drought has hurt shoppers' chances of finding the right bird at the right price this year, said Hobey Bauhan, president of the Virginia Poultry Federation.
Mr. Bauhan said an outbreak of avian influenza earlier this year that decimated the state's turkey flocks almost 180 farms were quarantined and nearly 5 million birds were destroyed to halt the spread of the disease has had no effect on retail supplies.
"Obviously, it had a tremendous economic impact on the farmers and the poultry companies that produce turkeys, but it has had no direct impact on consumers," he said. For one thing, he noted, the last case of avian flu was detected in early July, so the industry has had about four months to recover.
Nor did the drought and extreme heat this summer have much effect on supplies available to shoppers.
According to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Virginia's turkey slaughter has been running below last year's levels since the spring, when the avian flu outbreak began. Year to date, the total slaughter is about 7 percent below the same period in 2001.
However, Mr. Bauhan noted, any slack in in-state production has been more than offset by abundant supplies from other regions.
"Virginia turkeys are marketed in other states, and turkeys raised in other states are marketed in Virginia," he explained.
As a result, prices this year are lower than a year ago. According to federal statistics, average turkey prices nationally were about 8 percent below last year's levels at the end of September.

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