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North Carolina farmers start euthanizing 1.5 million chickens amid pandemic

Coronavirus outbreaks at meat processing plants are forcing North Carolina farmers to euthanize 1.5 million chickens, according to a state official.
File photo (Fotokon/shutterstock.com)

RALEIGH, N.C. — Coronavirus outbreaks at meat processing plants are forcing North Carolina farmers to euthanize 1.5 million chickens, according to a state official.

Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Joe Reardon told The News & Observer that this is the first time during the pandemic that North Carolina farmers have had to euthanize their animals. Roughly a third of the 1.5 million chickens already had been killed, Reardon said.

Agriculture officials said Thursday that 2,006 workers in 26 processing plants across the state have tested positive for coronavirus. Workers and their advocates said the meat industry was slow to provide protective equipment and take other coronavirus-related safety measures.

Chicken and hog farmers in other states also have been euthanizing millions of animals during the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, for example, the Baltimore Sun reported that coronavirus-related staffing shortages at chicken processing plants will lead farms in Maryland and Delaware to destroy nearly 2 million chickens.

North Carolina hog farmers have not taken steps to euthanize their animals, Reardon said.