German bird flu outbreak means Christmas geese will be in short supply
Eating goose will become more expensive this Christmas season, as a bird flu outbreak in Germany means many birds may be culled.
Rising bird flu cases among geese in Germany
In the past few months, farmers in Germany, Poland and Hungary have lost a large proportion of the geese they breed for the Christmas holidays after many fell ill with bird flu. According to Lorenz Eskilden, a representative of the Federal Association of Rural Goose Farmers, 80 percent of the geese Germans eat at Christmas are imported from Hungary and Poland. A further 20 percent are bred and slaughtered in Germany.
So far, the Polish veterinary office has said that they have only found bird flu on two geese farms, but since the Christmas slaughter season does not start for another three weeks, there is a risk that more living birds will become infected with the illness.
Cost of goose will increase this Christmas
Since a large number of infected flocks have already been slaughtered, the price of goose is set to increase this Christmas. In previous years, goose has cost around 4,50 euros per kilo when farmers buy the meat wholesale.
Last year, supermarket shoppers in Germany were paying 15,95 euros per kilo. “This year it will be 3 euros more,” said Eskilden. At his farm in Saxony, Eskilden breeds and slaughters 30.000 animals per year. So far, he has managed to avoid being infected with the flu, which may be able to pass from animals to humans.
European flu pandemic among wild birds
The news of bird flu among geese in Germany comes as wild birds across Europe face a flu pandemic. So far, 48 million birds have died. While in the past such outbreaks were seasonal due to bird migration patterns, they now occur all year round.
According to Timm Harder, head of the National Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza at the Friedrich Loeffler Institute, bird populations in the North Sea have already died in the tens of thousands. Like coronavirus, bird flu is zoonotic, meaning that it can transfer between animals and humans. However, Harder told dpa that he only knows of two human cases so far, and neither of the infected people are suffering from serious illness or need medical help.