JANUARY 5, 2006 - Posted at 4:26 p.m. CST
WASHINGTON - An industry group announced today that chicken companies intend to test every chicken flock in the United States for bird flu before slaughter.
The National Chicken Council says companies that make up more than 90 percent of the nation's production have signed up for testing and that more are expected to follow. The U.S.-produced more than 9.5 billion chickens in 2005. Springdale-based Tyson Foods is a leading producer.
The council didn't release names of companies in its voluntary testing program, but spokesman Richard Lobb says the list includes the major producers.
The testing program, which the industry will finance, calls for 11 birds to be tested from each chicken flock, or farm. There are an estimated 150,000 domestic flocks produced each year.
The virulent form of bird flu in Asia has not been found in the U.S. and is only now spreading into eastern Europe. Authorities there say that cooking kills the virus. Health officials in the U.S. say that eating properly handled and cooked poultry is safe.