News Dairy

Bird flu also in meat, support for dairy farmers

May 31, 2024 - Alex Jurvillier

The bird flu virus H5N1 is spreading in the United States, also among dairy cattle. The American Department of Agriculture USDA supports dairy farmers with infected cows financially and has also set up a monitoring program. Research by the USDA has shown that the virus can also be present in meat. However, the meat has not entered the food chain.

The virus is spreading worldwide among wild birds and is now causing outbreaks in poultry and dairy cows in America. In total, 67 dairy herds have tested positive, spread across nine states. In poultry, it involves over 96 million chickens in 48 states, as reported yesterday.

A week ago, the USDA announced that it would likely compensate dairy farmers for 90% of the lost milk production per cow. According to the American food authority FDA, milk from cows infected with bird flu is safe to drink after pasteurization. However, cows with bird flu produce less milk. USDA provides compensation for the reduced milk production.

The American government had already allocated $1.3 billion to control the bird flu situation. Yesterday (May 30), the USDA announced an additional $824 million investment in, among other things, a program to monitor the health of dairy cattle and test for bird flu.

Bird flu in meat
In the examination of muscle tissue samples from 109 rejected slaughtered dairy cows, infection with the bird flu virus was detected in one carcass in the US. This meat did not enter the food chain, emphasized the USDA. Samples of ground meat from stores in states where infections of dairy cattle occurred all tested negative. Each animal is inspected before and after slaughter, the USDA reports that it 'has confidence that the meat supply is safe'. However, the department recommends always cooking meat thoroughly. Research has also been conducted on the temperature at which burgers should be cooked to inactivate the bird flu virus. This is already the case at 49 degrees Celsius.

Three dairy farmers infected
The American CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) also closely monitors the situation in relation to public health. The current risk for humans is low. In total, four people in America have been infected with the virus, the first through poultry in 2022. This year, three dairy farmers are said to have been infected through dairy cows. No cases have been identified where the virus has been transmitted from person to person.

Alex Jurvillier

Alex Jurvillier is a market specialist in sugar and cacao at DCA Market Intelligence. He also monitors the milk supply in the most important dairy countries and keeps an eye on developments in food.