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1st MN farm hit with bird flu resumes production; others still dealing with 'nightmare'

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The first Minnesota farm plagued by the avian flu is restocked and resuming production, the Associated Press reports.

The Pope County turkey farm was hit three months ago, but was restocked with birds Sunday. It's the first poultry farm in the region to be back in action, the AP says.

The death toll in Minnesota due to avian flu is more than 8.8 million birds, across 108 farms in 23 different counties, according to the Department of Public Safety's latest figures.

And while the financial and mental loss is difficult for all farmers, it's been a series of miscommunications and frustrations for one Minnesota firm.

A 'nightmare'

The Redwood Falls Gazette spoke with Becky Bruns, one of the operators of The Pullet Connection in Renville County, which raises thousands of chicks for poultry companies. On June 1 she discovered some birds in one clock were dead and infected.

That meant all 420,000 chicks had to be killed, the paper says.

What followed was frustration.

Bruns told state lawmakers Monday nobody had ever confirmed to her operation that the birds had the avian flu when 200 USDA workers showed up to kill all the birds, the West Central Tribune reports.

Some of the birds were supposed to be euthanized in a day and a half – but it took more than three days, and the birds didn't get feed to eat during that time, the Tribune says.

And a case manager who was supposed to oversee the process showed up, wouldn't go near the barns, then didn't return, Bruns said, according to the paper.

It'll be weeks before they can use those barns again, which must be cleaned on the owners' dime and sit empty for a certain period.

It's been a "nightmare," Bruns told the Gazette.

The euthanasia process

MPR detailed the steps taken to kill the birds on a wide scale.

On turkey farms, a foamy carbon dioxide mixture is pumped into the barn, and kills the birds within a few hours. Chickens, because they sit high up in cages, have to be manually moved into the walkways, which then are filled with carbon dioxide. About 300,000-400,000 birds a day can be killed that way, MPR reports.

The bird carcasses are then left in the barn to decompose, with a bedding layered on top that builds heat – and in the process, kills the virus particles, according to MPR.

Check out the full story for many more details about the process.

Egg prices still suffering

On the consumer end, the avian flu is still impacting egg prices at the grocery store.

Nationwide, more than 46 million birds have been hit with the virus – and nearly 20 million egg-laying hens have been killed.

The average price for a carton of a dozen shelled eggs has nearly doubled in the past month, Yahoo reports, citing numbers from the USDA.

It could eventually affect packaged foods that use egg products, too – breakfast sandwiches, breads, pastas and other items, Yahoo says.

It's gotten to the point where the U.S. is now allowing egg products to be imported from the Netherlands, the first time in more than 10 years the United States has bought eggs from a European country, the Associated Press reports.

In Minnesota, Coborn's Inc. spokeswoman Rebecca Kurowski told the St. Cloud Times the company is good through July – but is unsure of its egg supply after that. In addition, the Central Bakery bakers are experimenting with egg substitutes in recipes to alleviate the issue.

Steve Olson – a higher-up with the Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota and Minnesota Turkey Growers Association – thinks the price increase is only temporary, he told the St. Cloud Times, calling it a "slight disruption" to the industry.

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