Main Street Project


Fighting Bird Flu – Advantage Goes to Organic, Regenerative Farms

As Minnesota’s turkey and chicken factory farm operations worry about the return of bird flu, many are still debating the cause of these outbreaks. Typically, wild migrating birds are blamed for infecting poultry flocks with H5N2. Human “biosecurity errors” are suspects, too. Still, the USDA cannot pinpoint, “one factor or group of factors in a statistically significant way at this time” responsible for the latest outbreak.

Whether it’s a failure of protocols, or the failure of poultry farm operators to adhere to protocols, we need to find better ways to raise birds that are less vulnerable to viruses.

Industrial poultry farms aren’t a healthy place for birds. The birds are confined and are never introduced to a natural environment where natural defenses develop. When we raise animals in factories the result is a very vulnerable animal, which creates a quick entry point for aggressive viruses such as the bird flu. Another factor is genetics. Because of the poultry industry’s reliance on homogenous breeding techniques, commercially raised birds are nearly genetically identical.

On the contrary, the natural defense systems and genetic makeup of birds raised in natural settings, using regenerative farming practices are stronger and more diverse than birds raised in factory farms. Regenerative farm systems present a greater challenge for viruses to find an entry point. Instead of cool, dark and moist conditions, birds are raised in their natural environment with sunshine and warm temperatures that are effective at killing the virus.

As we continue to use regenerative systems, we see significant improvements in the quality of plants and their resistance to diseases and pests. We also continue to see healthy egg layers and meat birds. This kind of farming clearly provides environmental conditions that enhance the birds’ ability to fight diseases — a theory that has proven true for many species.