Hurricane Florence has killed at least 3.4 million chickens and turkeys in North Carolina

The devastating effects of Hurricane Florence have left at least 3.4 million chickens and turkeys dead in North Carolina, the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services told Fox News on Wednesday, as a top chicken producer warns millions more birds are at risk.

Andrea Ashby, director of public affairs at the department, said the assessments is based on reports and information given to them by people on the ground.

“So far, poultry losses, as of Sept. 18, are 3.4 million birds. This does exceed poultry losses in Hurricane Matthew,” she said.

A Sanderson Farms facility in Lumberton, N.C.

A Sanderson Farms facility in Lumberton, N.C. (Sanderson Farms, Inc.)

Sanderson Farms, Inc., one of America’s largest chicken producers, said it’s lost around 1.7 million of those birds to Florence and is warning another 6.3 million are at risk if it can’t gain access to farms that have been isolated by floodwaters.

“The Company estimates that approximately 1.7 million head of broiler chickens out of an average live inventory of approximately 20 million head, ranging in age from six days to sixty-two days, were destroyed as a result of flooding,” it said in a statement this week.

Sanderson Farms, which operates 880 broiler houses in North Carolina, where chickens are raised for meat consumption, reported that 60 of the facilities have been flooded and another six won’t be able to house chickens again until repairs are made.

“In addition, approximately thirty farms, housing approximately 211,000 chickens per farm, in the Lumberton, North Carolina, area are isolated by flood waters and the Company is unable to reach those farms with feed trucks,” it added. “Losses of live inventory could escalate if the Company does not regain access to those farms.”

Ashby said the state has 819 million chickens overall and 33.5 million turkeys. The swine losses are estimated to be around 5,500, she said, citing a state veterinarian.

Joe Sanderson Jr., Sanderson Farms’ chairman and CEO, said the company “will provide ice, water, food and other necessities to those affected by this catastrophic storm."

“While we will work hard over the next week to get our operations back on line, our primary focus will be to respond to the needs of our local communities,” Sanderson Jr. said. “We will continue to help those whose lives have been more seriously disrupted.”