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Petaluma Egg Ranch Workers Wearing Bio-Hazard Suits To Prevent Avian Flu Outbreak

PETALUMA (KPIX 5) -- The price of eggs at the supermarket has skyrocketed lately due to the avian flu outbreak, and a Petaluma rancher is putting his chicken farm under bio-hazard lock down to prevent an outbreak from affecting his flock.

"If you get avian influenza into a flock of chickens, what you know is you will get 95% mortality over a 6 day timeline. That's how devastating it is," Sunrise Farms co-owner Arnie Riebli said.

The avian influenza virus in the Midwest has forced the killing of more than 45 million hens, driving up the price of eggs in the Bay Area to nearly $6 a dozen, and turning local egg farms into high-security intensive care units.

"It's a lock down, a bio-security lock down.  That's self-insurance, that's self-preservation."

Workers at Sunrise Farms wear bio-hazard suits, and trucks and equipment are not shared with other ranches, all to prevent cross-contamination.  Riebli believes the flu that hit in January may drive some big egg producers into bankruptcy.  While that means he's getting a good price for his eggs now, he knows it's only temporary.

"Farmers are good at doing one thing-they can overproduce just like that.  So for all these chickens that are going to be gone…they're all gonna be back, believe me.  They're all coming home and they're coming home to roost," Riebli said.

Riebli says that if the outbreak ends, in about a year the price of eggs will plummet as the Midwest ranches resume production, flooding the market and once again leaving California farmers scrambling to make a profit.

Sunrise Farms is spending nearly 2 million dollars to increase bio-security to protect its chickens.


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