Record breaking rainfall and severe flooding linked to Hurricane Florence has claimed up to 3.4 million birds in North Carolina.
The State’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said the figure, which includes broilers, layers and turkeys, could change based on further recovery efforts.
One of the worst affected companies has been Sanderson Farms, one of the State’s largest poultry firms, who reported that 60 of 880 broiler houses and 4 out of 92 breeder houses had been flooded.
The company said this week that approximately 1.7m broilers had been lost, ranging from 6 to 62 days. In addition, it said 30 farms, housing approximately 210,000 chickens per farm, were isolated by flood waters with the company unable to provide feed for the units.
In addition to the loss of live birds, Sanderson said it would be unable to hatch and place live broilers in the field at its normal rate during the coming week. The reduced egg sets and chick placements will affect the company’s weekly processing volumes from October until December.
Joe Sanderson Jnr, Sanderson Farms’ chairman and CEO, said the company “will provide ice, water, food and other necessities to those affected by this catastrophic storm. While we will work hard over the next week to get our operations back on line, our primary focus will be to respond to the needs of our local communities.”
High winds and flooding also damaged 2 Tyson Foods Inc poultry farms but operations were minimally affected and the company was looking to relocate birds that survived to others farms. Tyson has deployed a disaster relief operations team to North Carolina to prepare meals for those affected by the disaster.
The leading US turkey brand Butterball, which is based at Garner, North Carolina, said in a statement that “many of our North Carolina-based processing plants, hatcheries and feed mills have been impacted by the storm, and we continue to see flooding and power outages throughout the region.
However, the company said Hurricane Florence would not lead to any pre-Thanksgiving turkey shortage, as those birds come from the mid-west. Ground turkey, turkey bacon and turkey breasts are processed in North Carolina.
North Carolina is one of the largest poultry producers in the country with 819 million chickens and 33.5m turkeys housed on farms.
The poultry deaths already exceed the 1.8m birds lost in Hurricane Matthew in the State in 2016 and Hurricane Floyd in 1999 when one million birds died.