The coronavirus outbreak has brought a large part of the world to a virtual standstill with multiple lockdowns having a cascading effect on a series of industries. One such industry that is bearing the brunt of false news and rumors surrounding the COVID 19 virus is the poultry industry. Poultry bird prices have plunged to Rs 10-30 per kg at farm gate level due to a slump in chicken demand while the average cost of production is Rs 80 per kg. Poultry breeders have demanded a relief package from the government claiming that the sector has incurred heavy losses of around Rs 1,750 crore in a month due to panic over spreading of the myth that eating chicken could spread coronavirus. The dramatic drop in sales of chicken and eggs have impacted livelihood of a large number of poultry farmers.

Although, Coronavirus is a deadly disease which has claimed countless lives many fake news agencies and websites are spreading the rumor that eating chicken and eggs is spreading the dreaded disease which isn’t the case as confirmed by scientific reports and studies. Coronavirus does not spread by any kind of eating habit. Doctors and experts around the world have stated time and again that it is a respiratory disease which spreads primarily through contact with an infected person wherein droplets generated from the mouth or nose during coughing or sneezing are exchanged. Taking note of the myths and misconceptions clouding the industry, even FSSAI chief GSG Ayyangar came forward to issue a clarification. He stated clearly that the belief that the virus will spread through eating chicken, mutton and seafood is nothing but a misconception.

Not the first case of a false alarm against poultry

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that an animal viral has scared people off chicken meat due to a health scare. In the 1980’s a mad cow disease spread in UK which was a result of giving non vegetarian feed to cows which affected their nervous system and triggered health concerns in humans as well. Later it was established that eating chicken and eggs cannot cause it. Similarly, zoonotic viruses such as swine flu which started in the pig farms of Mexico and Ebola virus that started because of consuming and handling uncooked bush meat had also caused similar unwarranted backlash against the poultry industry. The most recent Nipah Virus which was found in people living closer to the habitat of bats may have started off from consumption of half eaten fruits that may have been bat bitten had also scared people off chicken and eggs.

Chicken is safe and a crucial source of nutrients

Chicken is an essential choice for many healthy diets as it is high in protein and low in calories, carbs as well as is a source of B vitamins and selenium. The nutritional elements of chicken aid in the metabolism of fats and sugars in the body that is necessary for daily energy. Consuming chicken strengthens bones as well as is responsible for maintaining healthy cells. Due to the rumor many people are looking for vegetarian alternatives like spinach and jackfruit but they cannot provide the same amount of nutrients as chicken. It is imperative therefore that the industry as well as the administration rise to the occasion and effectively counter the false narratives with facts. In fact, the Union Ministry of Health must step in to address all such miscommunications through regular advisories and press releases.

Poultry farmers must step up hygiene measures

The onus also lies on the poultry industry to initiate a series of measures towards raising safe and healthy poultry birds. Unhygienic breeding of birds in several farms and backyards has often been a cause for consumers and the poultry industry must rise to the occasion to boost consumer confidence. They must also adopt the use of safe and healthy solutions and alternatives to antibiotics such as bacteriophage-based poultry feeds to raise healthier antibiotic free chicken. Poultry farms which take proper hygiene and preventive measures while raising their chicken can prevent any bacterial infections and virus in their stock which is why government regulatory bodies must keep a thorough check on poultry farms operations and issue media releases that squash unfounded rumors which are affecting poor farmers as well as the overall poultry industry. This will help in reviving the demand for chicken and eggs and will help people get their required amount of nutrition that is necessary for good health.