A day before I heard some people in market discussing that owing to Bird Flu outbreak, chicken was unsafe to eat. Unfortunately, here rumours tend to spread quickly and often poultry has to bear the brunt of this rumour mongering. When I googled it came to fore that Bird Flu had affected some South Indian States and not J&K.
Later on the authorities both in Jammu, and in Kashmir Divisions clarified that no case of Bird Flu had been reported anywhere in the J&K and cautioned that spreading rumours will lead to losses to people dependant on poultry.
Even if the surrounding areas are affected with Bird Flu, the poultry and poultry products can be safely consumed provided these items are properly cooked and properly handled.
The normal temperature used for cooking (70 degree Celsius in all parts of the food) kills the virus. Consumers need to be sure that all parts of the poultry are fully cooked (no “pink” parts) and that eggs too are properly cooked (no “runny” yolks). However slaughtering, de-feathering and eviscerating of diseased birds pose a risk to poultry handlers. They need to follow strict hygienic measures and take precautions.
Pertinently the consumption of poultry meat, particularly Broiler Chicken is high in Kashmir Valley owing to its palatability, affordability and availability. Compared to mutton (red meat) Broiler chicken is quite cheap and offers a healthier alternative.
Apart from sale of live chicken in poultry markets, the sale of dressed and boneless chicken is common nowadays and even value added chicken products such as tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, chicken kababs, chicken rolls, chicken patties, chicken nuggets etc are common.
In Kashmir Valley the commercial Broiler farming is practiced by poultry farmers on a large scale particularly in Summer months when conditions are conducive.
The Day Old Chicks (DOCs) are procured by farmers from dealers, raised on nutrient dense feed with timely vaccinations/medications under standard housing conditions and the batch is sold at the age of around 7 weeks when each bird weighs about 1.5 Kgs. All in, all out system is followed and after a suitable gap another batch is started.
The poultry business is profitable provided everything goes as planned, but rumours such as that of Bird Flu play the spoilsport and poultry farmers are forced to sell their chicken at throwaway prices.
The livelihood of various stakeholders such as poultry farmers, poultry input dealers, poultry wholesalers, poultry retailers, restaurant owners, etc. is associated with Broiler Chicken. People should not pay heed to rumours and follow the advisories issued by the experts/authorities in letter and spirit.
Dr. Zubair Ahmad War has Masters in Livestock Production and Management (LPM).