From Bird Flu to Big Farms: The Rise of China’s Agriculture

21 February — In my last post, I talked about the unnerving increase in avian flu H7N9 in China. The novel flu strain, now in its second year, appears to be spreading more rapidly than it did in its first appearance, and also more rapidly than H5N1, the avian flu strain that has caused the most worry internationally. You can’t have avian flu — or at least, not this avian flu — without birds; most of the people who have been diagnosed with H7N9 had contact with live chickens or visited a market that sold live poultry for slaughter. H7N9 is continuing to spread in China; and so it’s a lucky coincidence that a nonprofit with deep knowledge of Chinese agriculture has just published a series of reports exploring the vast expansion of Chinese production of meat animals, including chickens.