UPDATE 2-Hormel Foods, other meat company shares fall as bird flu concerns mount

Tue Apr 21, 2015 7:42pm EDT
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(Adds Mexico bans poultry, egg imports from Iowa)

By P.J. Huffstutter

CHICAGO, April 21 (Reuters) - The spread of a deadly strain of bird flu into an Iowa egg farm accelerated market concerns over how big a bite the current outbreak could take from the United States' egg and poultry businesses, sending shares of several leading meat companies' down on Tuesday.

Hormel Foods Corp shares closed down 2.3 percent after the Minnesota-based company said the impact of the virulent strain of avian influenza may drag its fiscal 2015 earnings toward the lower end of forecasts.

The virus has been identified at a facility west of Minneapolis that is owned by a subsidiary of Hormel. Minnesota, the largest turkey-producing state in the country, has been the hardest hit so far, followed by farms in Arkansas, Missouri, the Dakotas, Wisconsin and Iowa.

On Tuesday, Mexico, the biggest buyer of U.S. chicken, halted imports of live birds and eggs from Iowa.

Bird flu was found in millions of hens at an egg-laying facility in Iowa on Monday, the worst case so far in the United States.

Mexico's agriculture ministry said it and the country's animal health body, SENASICA, had tightened controls and the monitoring of migratory wild birds. It said they were in contact with bird farms in Mexico to detect any domestic cases.

Migratory ducks are believed to be spreading the virus, veterinarians have said.   Continued...