In a devastating blow to the thriving poultry industry of Petaluma, Sonoma County, the specter of avian flu has returned, hitting local farmers with unprecedented force. Last month, Mike Weber, owner of Sunrise Farms, faced the heart-wrenching decision to cull his entire flock of 550,000 egg-laying hens after they tested positive for avian flu.
Weber, visibly shaken, described the aftermath, “It’s a trauma. We’re all going through grief as a result of it. Petaluma is known as the Egg Basket of the World. It’s devastating to see that egg basket go up in flames.”
Avian flu is devastating farms in California's 'Egg Basket' as outbreaks roil poultry industry https://t.co/Eb5Mfv1QOo
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 27, 2024
While the Midwest bore the brunt of the previous avian flu outbreak, California had largely dodged the bullet. However, this time around, highly pathogenic avian influenza has found its way to the West Coast, unleashing chaos in its wake. Sonoma County, in particular, has been hit hard, prompting local officials to declare a state of emergency.
Over the past two months, nearly a dozen commercial farms in Sonoma County have been forced to cull over 1 million birds in a desperate attempt to stem the spread of the virus. The consequences extend far beyond the immediate loss of poultry. The economic toll on farmers, workers, and the broader community is palpable, casting a dark shadow over an industry already grappling with uncertainty.
As the avian flu tightens its grip on Petaluma, the community faces not only the economic repercussions but also the emotional toll of witnessing an integral part of their identity, the “Egg Basket of the World,” succumb to the flames of the outbreak.