Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Country of Chile Exports Chicken to the United States (Yay or Nay?)

Call me old fashioned or maybe call me a nationalist, I don’t really care. Doesn’t the United States provide enough chickens for the U.S. population? Are we denying U.S. chicken farmers income and a distribution chain?

Oct. 30, 2007 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that the country of Chile will be allowed to export poultry and poultry products, processed in certified establishments within Chile, to the United States effective December 3, 2007.

FSIS has determined that Chile’s laws, regulations and other materials showed that its poultry inspection system includes requirements equivalent to all provisions in the Poultry Products Inspection Act and its implementing regulations. FSIS, through annual on-site reviews, will verify that establishments certified by the government of Chile continue to meet all U.S. requirements.

In addition to relying on its initial determination of a country’s eligibility and performing ongoing audits to ensure that products shipped to the U.S. are safe, wholesome and properly labeled and packaged, poultry and poultry products exported to the U.S. from Chile will be subject to FSIS reinspection procedures at ports of entry for proper certification, labeling, transportation damage and general condition. Selected shipments will be subject to additional reinspection procedures including examinations for product defects, laboratory analyses to detect harmful chemical residues, or pathogen testing appropriate for the product.

The proposed rule to allow the export of poultry and poultry products from Chile was published in February 2007 following a thorough evaluation of Chile’s poultry inspection system, laws, regulations and on-site reviews that began in 1997 after Chile requested approval to export these products to the U.S.

By spending the fossil fuel to ship from Chile to the United States, aren’t we wasting energy and resources? Isn’t there some local chicken farmer who could benefit more?

Also one has to wonder the mode of transportation and at what degrees will chickens be shipped and in what degrees will they arrive and be handled. If you ask me — there seems to be a lot of opportunity for defrosting and refrosting and the development of bacteria.

What do you think? I love Chilean wine but…

  1. I agree totally!
    What happened to local and sustainable?
    Plus the good old government has been so lax and dishonest about just about everything these days I can’t trust them.
    Give me a local chicken.

  2. It is all special-interest politics. Some individual is benefitting from this on a financial or power-broking basis. Next year, it will be something totally different and this will be forgotten.

    Not unlike the ethanol debacle. The government decided to give the green light on this and people saw big dollar signs. Immediately entrepreneurs started building ethanol plants. Less than two years later, some are stopping contruction and others are going out of business due to a glut on the market.

  3. The FSIS of the USDA guidelines incorporate a concept called Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP). Under HACCP, and it’s relationship with Standard Sanitation Operating Procedures (SSOP) and General Manufacturing Processes (GMP’s), every point in a covered protein’s supply chain where product could be subject to adulteration is managed to meet the FSIS standards.

    This includes shipping temperature monitoring with a TellTale Time/Temperature device that monitors the container temperature every 5 minutes during its trek to its destination. Temperature readings are taken throughout the processing and storage of the product, and at the time of the loading, and again at unloading in the US. If the TempTale readings at receiving in the US indicate thaw/refreeze, the load will be rejected and will not enter the human food chain in the US.

    Regarding the carbon footprint of the vessel to the US, this is negligible. A container ship will leave the South American port full of containers of foodstuffs, metals, grains, clothing, electronics, generally all exports of Chile bound for the US. The container ship is coming with or without this poultry. By putting more product on the vessel, the carbon output per unit delivered decreases. In fact, fuel efficiency in such massive transport vehicles is extraordinarily low. Example, a freight train can move a ton of freight 436 miles on one gallon of fuel (http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/can_a_freight_train_really_move_a.html). To move a tractor trailer delivered intermodally on a train can move that same distance on only 15 gallons of diesel – that same trailer attached to a Mac Truck will take approximately 100 gallons to go 436 miles.

    Container ships today move as many as 11,000 containers across the Atlantic

    Today’s modern container vessels recycle their exhaust by mixing it with fresh air back into the engine for reuse. Instead of biocides being used to keep drag-inducing barnacles from adhering to its hull, silicone paints prevent them, allowing the efficiency to propel a 1300 foot vessel 30 miles per hour.

    Fuel efficiency is difficult to comprehend for such massive vessels. Fuel consumption at maximum power is 0.278 lbs per hp per hour (Brake Specific Fuel Consumption). Fuel consumption at maximum economy is 0.260 lbs/hp/hour. At maximum economy the engine exceeds 50% thermal efficiency. That is, more than 50% of the energy in the fuel in converted to motion. For comparison, most automotive engines have BSFC figures in the 0.40-0.60 lbs/hp/hr range and 25-30% thermal efficiency range. Even though a vessel will consume 1660 gallons of fuel per hour, that is spread among 11,000 containers (tractor-trailers). So at maximum cruising speed of 30 mph, the fuel consumed per container is only 0.15 gallons per 30 miles per container. That is ridiculously efficient. Were that trailer be pulled by a truck, it would consume 7 gallons in that same distance.

    Now onto impact on the domestic poultry farmer. The US has a massive poultry production capacity. Not only do they provide grocers and restaurants with great products, they also feed the world. In 2008, US poultry industry exported 3.2 million metric tons to protein-poor countries.

    If the supply of chicken in the US dropped too far, the price would increase, and the farmers would certainly benefit. However, there are substitutes to chicken. If the price of chicken breast increases too far for the American consumer to buy it, most will buy it less often and opt for more seafood, or pork, or beef. This brings the demand back in line with the supply, and the price levels out again. Consumers want value, and they prove it by buying the best values, at the expense of those at product at poor values. THe only reason why Chile can export poultry to the US is that the value that they can get in the US is higher than that which they can achieve by keeping it domestically in Chile AND that the price after export is lower than US poultry. It gives the consumer a choice. When coupled with the FDA’s Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) in grocers, such items will be displayed in the butcher case with its country of origin identified. The consumer has a choice of buying the US chicken breast or the Chilean breast.

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