The tornadoes that devastated the southeast this week heavily damaged the Alabama poultry industry as well. State officials estimate that 25 percent of the state's poultry houses have been destroyed or damaged, killing an estimated 5 million birds, reports the Wall Street Journal.

An estimated 200 poultry houses were destroyed, and another 180 were damaged by the winds. Many roads are still inaccessible, making it difficult for the state to assess all the damage. Industry officials caution that Alabama's bird losses could swell if many farmers aren't able to quickly re-establish water supplies. The tornadoes damaged many rural water systems.

"Power outages and loss of drinking water could worsen an already critical situation for poultry producers and meat processors," said John McMillan, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries, in a statement.

Chicken processor Peco Foods Inc. said Thursday its headquarters in storm-ravaged Tuscaloosa escaped damage, and that there weren't any employees injured on its property. But the Peco Foods processing plant in that city absorbed enough damage to keep it out of commission for several weeks.  The company announced it plans to extend hours in its other processing plants to compensate for the downtime.

Tyson Foods said that its two processing plants in Bountsville and Albertville had been idled by power outages, and a Albertville production manager was treated for injuries sustained when a tree fell on his house and released from a hospital. Pilgrim's Pride said that its Guntersville and Boaz plants also remained closed due to power loss.

Source: Wall Street Journal