Minnesota State Fair cancels poultry shows amid bird flu crisis

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The bird flu plaguing the state's turkey industry is increasingly being felt off the farm – grocery chains have seen rising prices and shortages of certain products, and now, a popular attraction at the Minnesota State Fair has been canceled.

Fair officials announced Friday morning that there will be no poultry shows at this year's event, in response to a "directive" from the Minnesota Board of Animal Health (MBAH), a news release says. That of course includes the open class and 4-H Poultry Show.

The Poultry Barn, normally a lively attraction full of prize chickens and roosters, will instead host "interactive displays and presentations" about the state's poultry industry.

Officials say it's an effort to prevent the risk of the virus spreading further.

“Taking this step makes sense,” said MBAH Assistant Director Dr. Beth Thompson. “We need to do everything possible to get rid of this virus and preventing the commingling of birds from different farms is one way to do that.”

Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, acknowledged the impact of canceling the popular event.

"We know the decision to halt poultry exhibitions at our county fairs and the Minnesota State Fair was not an easy one to make," he said, adding it affects the "4-H kids who plan for their projects all year long, and also means fewer opportunities for fairgoers across the state to learn about raising poultry."

But, he also said that protecting the health and well-being of the birds is the "right decision."

The directive is effective through the end of 2015 ,and also prohibits birds from being included in swap meets, exotic sales, and petting zoos, the State Fair says.

Officials are set to talk more about the decision this morning. Check back later for details.

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