Picture by Mr. Fenwick
Recently a friend, from San Francisco Photorama, asked me what Le Cordon Bleu’s stand on the avian bird flu was. I asked the chef’s the next day at school and the dominant response I got was that they were going to keep eating poulet. This of course surprised me, because I have stopped. Of course poulet is ingrained in French culture–even the soccer team wears a rooster insignia on their jersey! Not to mention all those weather veins that nobly stand gaurd against forboding weather.
Picture by Raouljibar
Despite the emblematic coq, France, to her credit, takes great pride and pains to make sure that animals are raised in the best conditions. There are control systems in place that register each animal before slaughter and insure it’s health. The poultry business in France is the largest in Europe (900 million sold/exported) so any contamination could be disasterous.
But it would be a lie to say that the Avian bird flu has not hit France. The most recent has been a turkey from the South of France. None of the other turkeys were diagnosed with the disease on the farm and 11,000 were slaughtered anyway. There was also a case of a migratory bird found dead in a pond 6 miles outside of Paris that was confirmed with having the flu. Other recent European cases include a cat in Ruegen, Germany, wild ducks in Sweden, and birds in Italy. For the most part raised poultry flocks have not been infected, only migratory birds.
I did some research into just what are the control systems here in France. According to the New York Times (thanks Matt for the link!) the European Union approved poultry vaccination programs against avian flu for France and vaccinations immediately. This would include some of the areas in France that are the most vulnerable like Landes, a foie gras producing area, where migratory birds come through and where it’s hard to confine fowl indoors.
Loué, where the best chicken comes from (at least in my opinion), is fighting to get the vaccination so that they can continue to keep their birds outside. Many of the farmers there are outraged because they have been asked to confine their poultry: “Un bon poulet, est un poulet libre” is their current slogan. Other poultry producers are keeping their birds confined and highly advertising it, like the large poultry producer Duc, which even goes as far as to show caged birds in their ads.
Jaque Chirac is already trying to make sure that a safety net is in place and has allocated $75 million in aid to poultry farmers and has bought 30 million doses of avian flu vaccine. Even still Canada is quarantining imported fowl from France and other countries are following suit. European countries are also trying to keep domestic animals like cat’s and dogs inside and not let them move between country borders.
Besides migratory birds carrying the disease, there are other ways for it to spread that are causing paramount concern. There have been cases in Jakarta where mud from a farm that had infected birds was carried, probably on someone’s shoe, to another place and infected more. Many specialists are saying that the main concern for spreading the disease is travelers not migratory birds and the traveling of raised poultry or poultry related materials.
Right now the human infection of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, according to the World Health Organization is: 173 people infected globally, killing 93 of them.
I think the greatest concern is for Africa, India, and Egypt. In Nigeria, poultry flocks (not just wild migratory birds) have already been discovered to carry the disease. These countries don’t have the same resources to prevent and contain it. Also, poultry is a vital source of protein for them. $1.9 billion has been pledged internationally to try and fight the avian bird flu in the countries that most need it, according to the Economist.
Do I think that France is at major risk right now? No, not really. Am I personally going to eat chicken right now? No, not if I can help it. I have been eating and cooking chicken predominately in my home kitchen for a long time and I think I’m going to venture out and try some other lean options at home like fish, porc, lean cuts of beef, and vegetarian recipes intead.