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|Animals Farmed: bird flu hits the US, superbugs in pigs and the sheep with an enormous fleece.|
|Welcome to our monthly roundup of the biggest issues in farming and food production, with must-read reports from around the web|
News from around the world
Millions of birds have been culled in the US after outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza or “bird flu”. The outbreaks have led zoos to temporarily close aviary exhibits and move birds away from the public. As we have reported, vets and animal advocates have called for restrictions on “cruel” methods of culling birds using extreme heat and steam.
A giant leap in global food prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has helped three members of the super-rich Cargill family, who majority-own one of the world’s largest food companies, join the ranks of the world’s 500 richest people.
Scientists have uncovered evidence that dangerous versions of superbugs can spread from pigs to humans. The discovery, made in Denmark, underlines fears that intensive use of antibiotics on farms is leading to the spread of microbes resistant to them. The Clostridioides difficile superbug infects the human gut and is resistant to all but three antibiotics in use today.
An increase in the use of feedlots – as opposed to grass-fed production – in Brazilian beef production is being driven by China, according to reports. China buys about 50% of Brazil’s exported beef. Meanwhile, Uruguay’s beef production could hit record levels this year.
|A merino sheep named Shrekapo who grew an enormous fleece while evading capture in New Zealand is now 18.6kg lighter after its first shave. Shrekapo was spotted hiding in the rocks, and was caught later that day, carrying nearly half its bodyweight in wool. The animal had probably been roaming the hills alone for the past three winters. |
The UK’s free-range egg sector is on the brink of collapse because of sharply rising costs, the British Free Range Egg Producers Association has warned. In a recent poll, more than 70% of members said they would quit if price rises were not forthcoming.
Meanwhile, an estimated 10% of the UK’s pig breeding herd has gone, as the National Pig Association (NPA) warned of significant gaps between the costs and pig prices. British food producers warned that perishable goods were losing their value due to congestion around the port of Dover caused by disruption to ferry services and customs operations. Fresh meat has reportedly been stranded for one to two days and possibly longer due to the current problems.
One of the UK’s biggest food retailers has warned chicken could soon cost as much as beef as production costs soar. Steve Murrells, chief executive of the Co-op, said that feed costs had become a huge challenge for the poultry industry.
Welfare campaigners now fear the cost of living crisis could stall the campaign to phase out the faster-growing broiler breeds associated with higher mortality, lameness and muscle disease than slower-growing breeds.
A vet whistleblower has been awarded a £1.25m payout after losing her job at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) when she raised concerns over meat traceability in Northern Ireland. She had also highlighted serious breaches of animal welfare legislation within the meat supply chain, the Belfast Telegraph reported.
The number of documented violations of legislation designed to reduce water pollution caused by agriculture in England has hit record levels as the rules remain largely unenforced. Last year had the highest number of recorded violations of the farming rules for water since the legislation was introduced in April 2018.
From the Animals Farmed series An H3N8 strain of bird flu has been detected in humans for the first time, in China’s central province of Henan. The four-year-old boy infected had been in contact with chickens and crows raised at his home, according to reports from China’s National Health Commission.
Northern Ireland will need to lose more than 1 million sheep and cattle to meet its new legally binding climate emissions targets. The large-scale reduction in farm animals comes after the passing of the jurisdiction’s first ever climate act, requiring the farming sector to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
|Organic dairy, for so long the sector’s success story, is facing a crisis of confidence, with fears about whether people will keep buying organic milk, butter and cheese as food prices soar. Some UK organic farmers are being paid a milk price that is lower than the price some of their non-organic competitors get. |
A loophole in government regulations meant that chickens could still be called free-range even though they were no longer allowed outside because of repeated outbreaks of bird flu across the UK. The ban on birds being allowed outdoors was lifted at the beginning of May.
And in the US, Charlie Hope-D’Anieri and photographer Danny Wilcox Frazier have reported on how factory pig farms are hollowing out rural communities in the state of Iowa. The state is responsible for producing almost one-third of US hogs.
With help from our friends at The Guardian, London.