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Avian flu made 2022 a challenge for turkey farmers as Thanksgiving approaches

Avian flu a challenge for turkey farmers
Avian flu a challenge for turkey farmers 01:51

CANNON FALLS, Minn. -- In less than a week, families will be celebrating Thanksgiving. That means grocery stores and retailers are starting to see a spike in turkey sales. Minnesota happens to be the number one turkey-producing state in the country.

"Usually, what we'll do is buy a smoked turkey for some of our friends," customer Jane Hart said.

At Ferndale Market in Cannon Falls, the Friday before Thanksgiving is a warm-up day, before shoppers get serious about turkey.

"We'll have thousands of people coming over the next, few days to buy their turkey right at the source," owner John Peterson said.

Peterson is a third-generation turkey farmer at Ferndale. They raise free-range turkeys on site and sell them at their market. This year has been more stressful than most.

There have been 105 avian influenza outbreaks in Minnesota, which leads the nation. Ferndale was fortunate not to get hit, but they know other farmers who weren't so lucky.

"It was a scary time. I worried a lot during the spring and summer and fall. But thankfully, all of our flocks were just fine," said Peterson.

But while the supply is good, the cost is up. Turkey prices have gone up across the board. The Ferndale says that has more to do with inflation than the bird flu- with prices up 10 to 15% compared to a year ago.

Peterson said a lot of that has to do with rising feed prices. But as Thanksgiving nears, he knows things could be much worse..

"To say that we feel fortunate would be an understatement. We were very, very fortunate to have been spared," said Peterson.

Peterson and other farmers who were not hit by the bird flu give some credit to upgraded biosecurity measures that have been installed since the last outbreak in 2015

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