CURRENT EVENT IN MARKETING: AVIAN INFLUENZA
Although the flu is not considered by many to be a serious illness, the disease kills hundreds of thousands around the world each year. Generally, flu strains remain a specific species, and relatively healthy individuals build up immunity to most influenza viruses through mild exposures and the production of antibodies. There are some flu strains, however, that "leap" species, and the new species typically has no resistance to the new strain. This is the case with some strains of avian--or bird--flu. This research considers the marketing consequences of a recent outbreak of avian flu in Asia.
Avian flu causes concern among poultry producers because the disease is often found in chickens, and chickens have become an increasingly important global commodity in recent decades. In 2003, the United States exported more than 2.3 million tons of chicken, Brazil exported more than 1.8 million tons, and Thailand exported 530,000 tons; the latter exported primarily to Asian markets (Buckman & Fackler, 2004).
Avian flu can result in the destruction of birds in nations where the disease is found since eradication is the only known way to eliminate the disease from a bird population. At the same time, countries seek to protect their own birds and human populations from the flu, and so are likely to impose import bans for animals coming from contaminated areas. Thus, Japan recently imposed a ban on birds imported from Thailand. This causes problems for businesses in Japan that rely on Thai birds, and some companies, such as McDonald's and Yoshinoya were forced to move quickly to find alternative suppliers.
However, the avian flu, while it curtailed Thai chicken exports, opened up new opportunities for other chicken exporting countries. The United States and the European Union have long argued that nations such as Thailand and Brazil do not adhere to the same levels of