Bird Flu Strikes at French Identity, Cuisine

March 2, 2006

In France the Coq Gaulois, or Gallic Rooster, is a proud national symbol, featured on everything from government seals and church steeples to Paris fashion and the jerseys of the national soccer team.

As such the announcement last week that bird flu had infiltrated a French poultry farm has sparked concern not just about human health, but the health of a nation's cultural identity.

Veterinarians revealed that nearly all of the 11,000 birds at a turkey farm in the Ain region of southeastern France were infected with avian influenza. Hundreds had died and the surviving birds were slaughtered.

The discovery was the first incidence of bird flu at a commercial poultry farm in the European Union.

France is Europe's biggest producer and exporter of poultry, with some 200,000 farms raising 900 million birds a year. The industry generated the equivalent of 3.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2004—more than 20 percent of total E.U. production.

So far 43 countries so far have blocked French poultry imports, including Japan, South Korea, Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.

Due to flu fears, there was a reported 30 percent fall in French poultry sales even before the farm outbreak was announced.

Jacques Chirac, the French president, made a point of eating chicken from the affected region at an annual farming fair in Paris last weekend.

He told accompanying media that the H5N1 strain is destroyed by cooking, "so there is absolutely no danger." He said concern among consumers over French poultry and eggs is "totally unjustified."

"We have to avoid a Hitchcock psychosis," Pierre Rolland, mayor of the poultry-producing town of Loué, told the New York Times—likely refering to the film director's suspense classic The Birds.

Gallic Cuisine

The term Gallic Rooster comes from the Latin gallus, which means "Gaul" as well as "rooster."

Continued on Next Page >>


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