Rumors of a link between poultry and the coronavirus have driven down chicken sales in India by almost 50 percent. The price of chicken also fell by 70 percent, as consumers grow wary of eating chicken and other animal products.
According to top chicken supplier Godrej Agrovet Ltd., sales fell from 75 million to around 40 million birds per week in the last month. Other Indian poultry producers, including Venky’s, also cited coronavirus (COVID-19) rumors spread via social media as the cause.
“A lot of misleading posts on social media, especially on WhatsApp, have created a false impression that humans can contract the coronavirus through chickens,” said Managing Director B.S. Yadav.
India is the second-largest producer of eggs and the fourth-largest producer of chicken in the world. The overall drop in prices is also severely impacting farmers themselves. They are now making approximately 30-35 rupees (approximately $0.42 – $0.49) per bird, down from 80-85 rupees. The cost of eggs has also dropped considerably.
Some farmers have cut production entirely, and many have resorted to either stress selling or killing their flocks. Earlier this month, a Karnataka-based farmer buried around 6,000 chickens alive. The farmer, Somnath Shelke, said that he buried the animals as he couldn’t afford to lose money on their upkeep.
According to India Today, the Union Ministry of Animal Husbandry says it currently considers chicken safe to eat. As cases in India pass 400 earlier this week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockdown.
Coronavirus and Meat
According to Worldometer, there are nearly 400,000 recorded cases of the coronavirus worldwide. While poultry consumption may not spread the virus, experts believe that it originated from a wet market in the city of Wuhan.
The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market legally sold both live and dead animals for consumption, including wild animals, which has since been made illegal.
Experts believe that an infected person, animal, or group of animals first introduced the virus to the market. Zoonotic diseases are those which can pass from animals to humans. Some may not make an animal sick, but can have severe consequences for humans.