Major poultry farm to cull nearly 2 million chickens after positive bird flu test

April 2, 2024

One of Texas’s largest poultry farms will cull nearly 2 million chickens this week after a positive bird flu test, the state Agriculture Commissioner announced Tuesday.

Cal-Maine Foods in Farwell reported a case of H5N1 bird flu, forcing production at the entire facility to cease. The nearly 2 million chickens account for just under 4 percent of its flock.

“This is absolutely devastating news for Cal-Maine and the entire Panhandle region which has already suffered so much already,” Commissioner Sid Miller said, referring to devastating wildfires in recent months.

“Given this latest development, all producers must practice heightened biosecurity measures,” he continued. “The rapid spread of this virus means we must act quickly.”

The news comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that a Texas dairy worker came down with the bird flu, which has spread among animals in five states. Federal authorities downplayed concerns among people, while underlining the need to stay vigilant and protect against the virus for livestock.

“This infection does not change the H5N1 bird flu human health risk assessment for the U.S. general public, which CDC considers to be low,” the CDC said.

Recent bird flu infections of dairy cows in Texas, Kansas, Idaho, New Mexico and Michigan mark the first time the virus has been detected in cattle in the U.S., according to the CDC. 

The infection of the Texas resident marks the second human infection in the U.S. since 2022. In the first ever case of the Type A H5N1 virus in humans, a prisoner on a work program at a poultry farm in Colorado contracted the virus after killing infected birds. The man did not become seriously ill and recovered.

Miller emphasized that livestock owners must be vigilant for signs of potential infection among both poultry and cattle.

“Producers need to work with us and report cases right away,” he said. “Transparency is going to be key to navigating and mitigating this outbreak. I encourage producers to work with state and national officials to report any symptomatic animals as soon as you identify them.”