WASHINGTON – June 15, 2010 — The National Chicken Council expressed the industry’s deep thanks today to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for USDA’s purchase program for dark-meat chicken. Secretary Vilsack cited the prolonged trade dispute with Russia as the impetus for the program.
“USDA’s purchase is a timely action that will relieve the industry of excess product while providing high-quality food to needy people here at home – a true win-win,” said NCC President George Watts. “We are delighted to be able to provide this product to the government for distribution to food banks and other outlets.”
Under normal circumstances, companies in the U.S. chicken industry sell more than 700,000 metric tons of chicken legs to Russia every year – about 1.5 billion pounds. Russia closed its market to chicken imports from the U.S. on January 1, 2010, ostensibly because Russian officials objected to the fact that American chicken processing plants use chlorinated water in processing chickens.
Negotiations to resolve the issue have dragged on for several months while product has been placed in cold storage due to the relatively limited domestic market for dark meat. American consumers prefer white meat, and while they also eat plenty of dark meat, they cannot consume all that is produced, considering that the chicken is nearly half dark meat by weight. The product to be sold to the government is the same as normally sold in the domestic market.
The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce and process chickens. Member companies of NCC account for approximately 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.