Center Fresh Latest Victim Of Avian Influenza

Center Fresh LogoNorthwest Iowa — Center Fresh Group, based out of Sioux Center, is the latest company to be hit by the avian bird flu. Of the 6 million laying hens involved in the five cases that were reported as infected on Monday by state and federal regulators, 5.5 million of those were from Center Fresh, with 1.7 million hens located at the Sioux County Egg Farm and 3.8 million hens at the Center Fresh Egg Farm.

Center Fresh is an egg supplier for a company owned by Post Holdings Co., commonly known for their cereal brands, Grape-Nuts, Raisin Bran and Honey Bunches of Oats, and is based out of St. Louis. A Post official confirmed on Wednesday that Center Fresh, a third-party supplier for Michael Foods, which is owned by Post and supplies ten percent of their eggs, was indeed affected by the avian bird flu.

Officials, both state and federal, are stressing the fact that there has never been a case reported in humans, and that it holds no threat to consumers as a food safety risk.

J.T. Dean, the chief financial officer for Center Fresh, said in a statement that they were “incorporating every precautionary measure available to protect (their) flocks” and that Center Fresh is working closely with state and federal regulators “as well as with our colleagues in the farming community, to take the necessary steps to limit the spread of this devastating disease.”

Dean went on to say, “our family has farms across Iowa, and we are committed to working tirelessly and devoting all needed resources to protect our remaining flocks from this disease. Heightened biosecurity protocols and greatly restricted access to farms will be critical to preventing any additional outbreaks.”

So far there have been eight facilities directly affected by the virus in Iowa, with a total of over 10 million birds, including laying hens, turkeys and pullets, needing to be destroyed. The U.S. Department of agriculture is working with the affected companies on how best to dispose of the birds.

While trying to determine how this disease is spreading, federal officials believe that farm workers may be carrying it on their clothing or shoes without realizing it, but it’s also possible that it’s moving on bird feathers or dust carried by the wind, something much more difficult to track.

Dean stated that “our family has spent our lives working to ensure the health and well-being of our flocks, and this news deeply affects all of us. The next few days will be difficult for our family, our employees and our community, and we are grateful for the support of so many during this time.”

Warm weather drastically reduces the ability for the virus to spread, and while this has been a big hit for Northwest Iowa and the surrounding states, as we get closer to summer we can hope to see this issue come to an end.



Date posted – April 27, 2015

Northwest Iowa — According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture, the five possible cases of avian influenza reported on Monday afternoon — have been confirmed.

The agency’s web site says that the cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in commercial poultry farms in Osceola, O’Brien and Sioux Counties in Northwest Iowa are now confirmed.  These five new cases join three cases of the disease in Iowa. All birds on the properties will be humanely euthanized to prevent the spread of the disease.
Osceola County 2 – Pullet farm with an estimated 250,000 birds.

O’Brien County 1 – Commercial laying operation with an estimated 240,000 birds that has experienced increased mortality.

O’Brien County 2 – Commercial laying operation with an estimated 98,000 birds that has experienced increased mortality.

Sioux County 1 – Commercial laying operation with an estimated 1.7 million birds that has experienced increased mortality.

Sioux County 2 – Commercial laying operation with an estimated 3.8 million birds that has experienced increased mortality.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Iowa Department of Public Health considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks and commercial poultry, to be low.  No human infections with the virus have ever been detected there is no food safety risk for consumers.

The United States has the strongest Avian Influenza (AI) surveillance program in the world.  As part of the existing USDA avian influenza response plans, Federal and State partners as well as industry are responding quickly and decisively to these outbreaks by following these five basic steps: 1) Quarantine – restricting movement of poultry and poultry-moving equipment into and out of the control area; 2) Eradicate – humanely euthanizing the affected flock(s); 3) Monitor region – testing wild and domestic birds in a broad area around the quarantine area; 4)  Disinfect – kills the virus in the affected flock locations; and 5) Test – confirm that poultry farms in the area are free of the virus.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship in partnership with the Iowa Department of Public Health are working directly with poultry workers at the affected facilities to ensure proper precautions are being taken.

These virus strains can travel in wild birds without those birds appearing sick. People should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.

All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard flock owners, should continue to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state/federal officials, either through their state veterinarian at 515-281-5321 or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.

Information will also be posted to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s website at


Warmer Weather Could Stop Bird Flu Outbreaks

Date posted – April 22, 2015

Des Moines, Iowa — State and national officials held a conference call on Tuesday, April 21st with reporters to answer questions surrounding the latest bird flu out break in northwest Iowa.
Officials first clarified that the facility in Osceola County has a capacity of five-point-three million egg-laying hens, but there are were three-point-eight million hens there when the disease was discovered. It is still the largest outbreak discovered in the U-S thus far. U-S-D-A chief veterinary officer, John Clifford, says the large number of birds at the Osceola County facility raised concerns.

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(as he says)”A lot of people ask the question ‘well what can we do about it?’ Well, one of the things that we’re doing, we are trying to determine the pathway of introduction into these houses,” Clifford says. “My guess is — and right now there is no solid evidence as such — my guess is there are multiple pathways of entry and it doesn’t mean that people are using poor biosecurity.”

The disease is believe to be carried by wild waterfowl. Clifford says other states like Minnesota have seen more cases than Iowa thus far because they have more lakes and more wild migratory birds. He says other states have also had some colder weather.

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(as he says)”And hopefully through the summer we would expect to stop seeing these cases because of the heat. This virus does not like the heat much at all, it prefers cooler temperatures in weather,” Clifford says. He says we could see more cases of the virus as the waterfowl move again in the fall and spring.

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey was asked about the economic impact. He says it has varied since the first outbreaks were reported in other states in January.

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(as he says) “In some cases we’ve lost some markets, some export markets. In that case maybe we see a negative impact to prices — we actually see lower prices because there are less place for these egg products and poultry products to move,” Northey says. “In other cases we now are starting to see some significant reductions in the supply, so we are kind of counterbalancing, so it depends on how this plays out on what the impact might be.”

But Northey says while millions of birds have died in Iowa and other states, the impact has not been major in terms of prices.

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(as he says)”Right now it does not appear that the loss of supply in either turkey products or egg products is significant at this time to show a significant impact on prices,” Northey says.

The first outbreak in Iowa was in a turkey facility in Buena Vista County. The 37-thousand turkeys there were destroyed and Northey says state and local officials are helping the Osceola County facility euthanized the birds there. Northey says the cases appear to be isolated at this point.

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(as he says)”We do not believe this is spreading in a way that is likely to create other problems on other farms. We believe this is coming from wild birds to these farms. That does not mean we might not see a significant number of new cases,” according to Northey.

But he says this could also be the last case found in Iowa too. Northey says these two facilities are a small part of the large egg and turkey industry in the state.

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(as he says)”As of today, eggs are still rolling out of most of our facilities. These are good, healthy eggs,” Northey says. “Consumers need to feel very comfortable eating Iowa eggs, eating Iowa turkey and eating Iowa chicken meat as well.”

Doctor Clifford with the U-S-D-A says the eggs from the facility in Osceola are cracked and pasteurized for use in egg products, so that would have killed any of the virus in those eggs. And the chickens are not being released into the market, so they do not pose any threat either.

Story from Radio Iowa

Other information presented during the conference call:

  • The birds are euthanized using either a foam or carbon dioxide gas.
  • Usually the bird carcasses are composted.
  • The experts don’t think the virus is going from farm-to-farm. It is believed to come from wild birds.
  • Officials are accepting samples for testing from farms that send them in, but officials are not actively monitoring any facility.

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