By Matt Reese
After a postponement due to an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), the Ohio Poultry Association was able to finally gather late in 2022 to celebrate successes of the year, but some challenges for the industry still loom large.
At the top of the list of ongoing concerns from the poultry industry was HPAI.
“We spent quite a bit of time talking about HPAI. The industry is still faced with this on a daily basis and in Ohio we have had a few backyard flock incidents as well as one commercial operation. It was a learning opportunity for us,” said Jim Chakeres, OPA executive vice president. “This HPAI strain has been different than ones we have dealt with in the past. For example, in the past with avian influenza, we didn’t see it in the summer when the birds weren’t migrating and the temperatures were higher. But this year we did. So, we’re not sure exactly what the winter is going to bring. Then we’ve got to look at things like the weather and a changing climate. How does all of this affect the migration of these birds? We’re seeing them not perhaps traveling the normal flyways and they may stay in one spot longer than they have in the past. Now they’re also mixing and mingling with all of the resident migratory birds, like Canada geese.”
Despite the quickly evolving situation, Ohio’s poultry producers had a unified effort to minimize the potential damage to the industry in 2022.
“I can’t thank the entire poultry community enough for coming together. The producers are working with the situation to keep their flocks safe and healthy, along with our regulatory partners at the Ohio Department of Agriculture and USDA. We have been working with both of those animal health teams and of course our Ohio Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and the staff there. It truly takes everyone to deal with these types of disease situations and we’re quite thankful that we have a good team here in Ohio,” Chakeres said. “It was a true team effort and communication was a key between farms and to share information just as soon as we possibly could to help prevent any spread of the disease. And it’s still out there. HPAI is in the wild birds. It’s at the highest levels we have ever seen it. I tell all of the farms in Ohio to assume that every wild bird surrounding your farms is carrying avian influenza and the migratory waterfowl are of the most concern to us right now.”
Beyond HPAI, Ohio’s poultry operations also continue to face high feed prices and other input costs, labor challenges and ongoing supply chain issues.
“It is an ongoing perfect storm because, not only are we dealing with avian influenza that is disrupting supply and demand, but we also have higher input costs,” he said. “Feed is our No. 1 cost in producing turkey, chicken and egg products for the consumer. We have a higher cost labor market than we ever have and all the other input costs are also increasing, whether that be fuel or trucking or cartons and packaging, all of those things are increasing. Just like every other industry, we are having to deal with that and, unfortunately, some of those costs are passed along because that’s the only way the industry can continue to provide safe, affordable food.”
Even so, Chakeres pointed out the incredible value of Ohio’s poultry products.
“Look at eggs, for example. Even at some of the prices that we’re seeing at $3, $4 and $5 for a dozen eggs, a dozen eggs are 1.5 pounds of some of the highest quality protein you can purchase in a grocery store. If you factor that out and do the math, they’re still a pretty good bargain and they’re an essential ingredient in a lot of baking,” he said. “A top priority of ours remains engaging with the consumer about how their food is produced, sharing the passion and dedication that our farms have and talking about our environmental and sustainability story.”
Other OPA priorities for 2023 include a multi-state study of HPAI costs and strategies, workforce development and working to assess and manage production costs moving forward. And, while always looking forward, OPA also took a look back and honored its 2022 award recipients during the organization’s annual banquet in December. This year, three awards were presented to individuals and organizations who have greatly contributed to Ohio’s egg, chicken and turkey farming communities.
“It’s exciting to have the opportunity to recognize these individuals who have made a tremendous impact in our industry,” Chakeres said. “Their tireless efforts to advance agriculture have not gone unnoticed, and we’re grateful to have them as a part of the Ohio egg and poultry community.”
Awards and recipients at the annual OPA Banquet and Industry Celebration included to following.
Golden Egg Award: Kurt Lausecker
The Golden Egg Award recognizes an individual that has worked to advance the mission and values of the poultry industry. This year, the award was given to Kurt Lausecker of Raymond, Ohio. Lausecker is a recognized egg industry veteran with more than 40 years of experience. He started his career in Germany, but new opportunities brought him to Ohio, where he served as general manager at Daylay Egg Farm and was later promoted to president, which ultimately propelled his career and leadership in the egg industry. Through his work and innovation at Daylay, Lausecker led the charge on research studies and collaboration efforts to improve air quality and employee welfare. In 2007, Lausecker founded Nature Pure, which has become one of the top producers of organic eggs in the United States. Lausecker is a strong advocate for egg farmers nationwide and has served in many board leadership positions.
Industry Partner Award: Capitol Advocates
The Industry Partner Award is given to an organization that works to support our business. This year’s award was presented to Capitol Advocates of Columbus, Ohio. Capitol Advocates has worked in partnership with Ohio’s egg, turkey and chicken farmers at the Ohio Statehouse for more than two decades. This organization, through non-partisan approaches, has ensured the egg, chicken and turkey industry has been well represented on a variety of legislative issues — from water quality rules to advocating on overall animal welfare standards.
Ohio’s egg, chicken, and turkey farms are significant contributors to the success of the state’s economy. Ohio is one of the leading states in egg production and produces more than 10 billion eggs each year with an estimated retail value of $523 million. Ohio is also a leader in chicken and turkey production with more than 570 million pounds of chicken and 305 million pounds of turkey produced annually. Ohio’s egg, chicken, and turkey farms create nearly 16,000 jobs annually, plus an additional 60,000 jobs in supplier and ancillary industries.
Career Achievement Award: Dr. Susan Skorupski
Susan Skorupski, of Grove City, was recognized at this year’s event for her years of service to Ohio’s poultry industry. Skorupski retired last month as the Area Veterinary in Charge for Ohio for District 2 for the USDA Veterinary Services. Her passion for doing the right thing for producers and advancing the agriculture industry have been her guiding principles throughout her career. She previously served as area epidemiologist and field veterinary medical officer in Ohio. Prior to government service, Skorupski worked in a mixed animal practice in Holmes and Wayne counties where she primarily worked with dairy cattle.