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Lucky chickens fly the coop to California sanctuary

Nearly 1,000 chickens flew on two chartered cargo planes to a California sanctuary from an Iowa farm that has been euthanising its flock as COVID-19 stagnates restaurant demand for eggs.

19 May 2020, at 9:29am

Reuters reports dozens of farmers have had to kill pigs and chickens as the coronavirus pandemic shuts slaughterhouses and upends the food supply chain. The bottleneck has left producers without a market for their animals, and many do not have room to house them or money to feed them.

Animal Place, a charity for unwanted farm animals, rescued the chickens over the weekend from an Iowa farm that was gassing some of its 140,000 birds because of the outbreak, Executive Director Kim Sturla said.

"It is a bright spot," she said. "There's so many struggling - human and non-human."

Animal Place typically brings animals to its Northern California refuge by truck from within the state, but received a donation to extend its reach to the Midwest at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, Sturla said. The group will make the chickens available for adoption after checking their health, she said.

Sturla declined to identify the farm in Iowa, the top US egg-producing state.

Egg prices have shattered after spiking as consumers stocked up at grocery stores at the start of state-imposed lockdowns in March. They averaged 89 cents per dozen on Friday in the Midwest, down from $2.83 on April 10, according to USDA data.

About 22 percent of eggs go to restaurants, hotels or other food-service outlets, said Ken Klippen, president of the National Association of Egg Farmers.

"When you lose 22 percent of your market, it's painful," Klippen said. "That's what we're going through right now."

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