Millions of Birds Have Been Killed in Japan. Now There’s No Space to Bury Them.

Japan has culled a record number of birds this season due to bird flu.
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Japan has had to cull millions of birds amid a record-breaking bird flu outbreak. Photo: Samsul Said/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Japan has lost a record number of poultry to bird flu—so many, in fact, that the country doesn’t have enough land to bury them. 

Since October, 17 million birds and chickens have been culled, leading to soaring egg prices, some restaurants pulling egg-based dishes off their menu, and a burial ground shortage. Local authorities and farms are required to kill and bury the animals to prevent the virus from spreading.


But land shortages are preventing proper disposal of the animals, according to a report from Japan’s state broadcaster NHK. The outlet found that of the 26 prefectures and provinces that reported aviation flu outbreaks, 16 lacked enough land to dispose of the birds.

Japan has been struggling to contain the spread of bird flu, a highly contagious disease for poultry. It can kill certain domesticated species, such as turkeys and chickens, the latter of which experiences a mortality rate of up to 100 percent if infected and can die within 48 hours. 

This year, the disease has infected so many birds that it’s ravaged global poultry supplies and egg supplies.

In the United States, 58.6 million birds have been culled in the last year, leading to soaring egg prices. Similar numbers have been reported in Europe, while countries in South America—such as Ecuador and Colombia—have also detected cases. 

In Japan’s capital Tokyo, the average wholesale price per kilogram of medium sized eggs was 350 yen ($2.67) as of Thursday—the highest ever since records began in 1993, according to a unit of the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations. 


To deal with egg shortages, some food chains in Japan are pulling them off the menu. 

McDonalds in Japan has stopped selling its seasonal “Teritama” dish, a teriyaki patty and egg burger, in some of its stores. On March 31, the convenience store 7-Eleven announced it would stop selling 15 egg-based products. 

To deal with the rapidly spreading bird flu, Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries recommends farmers to dispose of infected chicken as quickly as possible. Chickens are often disposed of via burial because it’s faster and doesn’t require renting an incineration facility, according to the ministry.

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