Nova Scotia

N.S. poultry farmers anxious over avian flu outbreak

"Farmers, we're anxious. We're stressed right out. This is something new.... We've never dealt with anything like this before," Lori Ansems, vice-president of the Turkey Farmers of Nova Scotia, told CBC's Mainstreet Halifax in an interview on Wednesday.

'We're stressed right out,' says vice-president of the Turkey Farmers of Nova Scotia

The turkeys pictured here are in New Brunswick, where the H5N1 avian flu has not been detected. (Alexandre Silberman/CBC)

Nova Scotia's poultry industry is on edge following the detection of avian flu in the province earlier this month.

On Monday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza, H5N1, at a mixed farm in western Nova Scotia. Because of this, the agency imposed "movement restrictions" and has recommended "enhanced biosecurity" for other farms within the area, such as wearing designated clothing and boots when entering flock areas, routinely cleaning anything that comes into contact with the flock and controlling access to the birds.

"Farmers, we're anxious. We're stressed right out. This is something new.... We've never dealt with anything like this before," Lori Ansems, vice-president of the Turkey Farmers of Nova Scotia, told CBC's Mainstreet Halifax in an interview on Wednesday.

Ansems, who has a farm of her own, said she's confident farmers will navigate their way through this outbreak. 

"It's going to take time and we're supporting the CFIA to ensure that there is no further spread of this virus," Ansems said.

Earlier this month 12,000 turkeys had to be euthanized after avian influenza was detected at a farm in western Nova Scotia. Ansems said the impact it would be "phenomenal, unbelievable."

As Nova Scotia deals with its first avian flu outbreak, guest host Preston Mulligan speaks with Lisa Bishop-Spencer of Chicken Farmers of Canada and Lori Ansems of Turkey Farmers of Nova Scotia for the latest developments.

"I couldn't even begin to imagine a farmer going through a situation like that," Ansems said.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said a 10-kilometre zone was established at affected farms with "movement control measures and enhanced biosecurity to limit any potential spread of the disease."

Lisa Bishop-Spencer, director of brand and communications at Chicken Farms of Canada, told Mainstreet the 10-kilometre zone around the effected farm should curb the spread from farm to farm.

She said that lesson was learned during an avian flu outbreak in B.C. in 2004. She said avian flu can "spread like wild fire."

"We're in a much better place than we were," Bishop-Spencer said.

'Not a food safety issue'

Ansems said people shouldn't be worried about consuming poultry products as long as they're cooked.

"This is a bird health or flock health issue. It is not a food safety issue. Food is safe to eat. You can be rest assured Canadian farmers want to provide safe, healthy food for Canadians," Ansems said.

Several countries currently have restrictions on Nova Scotia poultry. Bishop-Spencer said she hopes it doesn't extend to the rest of the country.

"We don't do a whole lot of exporting poultry and eggs because we're a supply-managed commodity. We produce predominantly for the Canadian market," Bishop-Spencer said. 

"But we roughly export about eight per cent of what we produce. So that's impactful for the people who are in the exporting business." 

With files from CBC's Mainstreet Halifax

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