Chicken Raiser, Company Say U.S. Poultry is Safe From Asian Bird Flu - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/21/06-Pittsburg

Chicken Raiser, Company Say U.S. Poultry is Safe From Asian Bird Flu

Birds are big business in East Texas, and many family chicken producers and huge processing plants like Pilgrim's Pride.

The worse case scenario: The potentially deadly strain of bird flu spreading through poultry population here. But should you be concerned? With the migration of the virulent strain of bird flu around the world, at Pilgrim's Pride headquarters in Pittsburg, everyone's on watch.

"We're meeting on a regular basis and we're sharing information with our customers and consumers." says Vice President Gary Rhodes says the U.S. is in the clear for now.

"The avian influenza that is sweeping Europe and parts of Asia has never been found in the United States and is not here now, but that's why we have testing to ensure that the product we're selling to our customers is safe to eat," Rhodes says.

"They test each flock." says one of those raisers near Pittsburg, Tim Nicholson.  He says safety measures are in place strong as ever. No outsiders, not even our cameras can be allowed on his farm. 

"We have an enclosed house. No other poultry will be in our house. We practice biosecurity, and we don't let anybody on the farm that needs to be there," Nicholson says.

The deadly strain of bird flu can spread from chicken to chicken, and experts say if migratory birds mingled with farm poultry, it could be disaster.

Rhodes says poultry that make it to your table don't roam in backyards, but are under lock and key from hatching to final processing.

"If the highly pathogenic form of [Avian Influenza] were ever found in the United States, the flock would be quarantined and completely killed," Rhodes says.

In Italy, poultry consumption fell 70 percent after bird flu was found in wild swans. That would be devastating to East Texas raisers and to Pilgrim's Pride.

But they say what they know about the virus is that even if it does make it to the consumerm, It's killed in the cooking process.

"The fact is that properly cooked chicken is absolutely safe to eat," Rhodes said.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.

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