Avian flu in Sask. Thanksgiving turkeys ‘emotionally and economically heart-wrenching'

·2 min read

The weeks before Thanksgiving are always a busy time for Pine View Farms.

The farm and meat supplier situated just north of Warman usually delivers around 1000 birds to Saskatchewan’s Thanksgiving tables every year — this is their harvest season.

But this week, Pine View Farms co-owner Melanie Boldt has been “scrambling” to try and find a way to fill their orders at all.

Last week, one of Pine View Farms’ partner producers, who raises turkeys on their farm, told Boldt that Avian Influenza had been detected on their yard. They had to kill all their birds, to prevent the outbreak from spreading.

“That includes our Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys that were growing there,” said Boldt.

Avian flu is highly contagious among birds. On Sept. 22, the Ministry of Agriculture released an order limiting the transport and co-mingling of poultry after several cases of the flu were confirmed in the province.

That is never the kind of news a farmer wants to hear.

“It is an economic threat to the industry, and it’s something that we as farmers have to take seriously,” said Boldt. “We all work really hard not to get it on our farms or in our barns and in our flock, because it is economically devastating.

“It’s an emotionally and economically heart-wrenching time, quite frankly.”

And at this time of year, even though Pine View Farms is “trying to get creative,” it’s hard to bounce back from something like this.

“We have been looking for a supply of local birds that we could process to fill some of our orders for Thanksgiving, but we haven’t been successful yet on that front,” said Boldt. “Hope is dwindling, for me, in that regard.”

Instead, Boldt has been encouraging her customers to try something different for Thanksgiving this year.

“How about a roasting chicken or a beautiful ham or a porchetta or a beef roast or something like that?” she asked. “Thanksgiving is not just about what’s on the table, but who’s around the table and who you’re sharing it with.”

With a few months between now and Christmas, Boldt is more hopeful that the farm will be able to find a new turkey supplier in time. But that isn’t guaranteed.

“Hopefully there’s enough of a window here that we can find a new supplier for Christmas,” she said. “But Christmas turkeys are already growing, so I’m not sure how that’s going to work for us. But we’re going to work hard.”

Ultimately, Boldt said, people preparing their holiday celebrations in Saskatchewan can still count on local product for their table — it just might look a little different this year.

“There is an abundance of food in Saskatchewan that we can still eat; it just might not be turkey."

Julia Peterson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix