Spent Fowl Imports Increase Sharply

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The head of Chicken Farmers of Canada alleges food companies are fraudulently importing chicken into Canada by labeling it as "spent fowl."  The term describes meat from old broiler breeding and, to a lesser extent, laying chickens which can enter outside the supply management system.

"A few years ago we typically had 40 to 50 million kilograms of spent fowl imports each year.  Two years ago it hit 82 and last year it was 106 million kilograms.  We're saying enough is enough, this is out of control and it's now 10 per cent of our market," says CFC Chair Dave Janzen.

The feeling is that food companies are using the spent fowl category as a loophole to import chicken without paying tariffs at the border.  "We are now importing all of, or even slightly more, than what the U.S. breeder flock is capable of producing. We know there's a significant market in the for fowl meat in the U.S. and they're using a portion of that, so obviously there is fraud."

He alleges some companies are blending chicken meat with spent fowl and then importing it as spent fowl to circumvent the supply management system.  "There will be just enough fowl in that container to classify the shipment as spent fowl and therefore it can enter in duty-free even though a significant portion of that will have broiler chicken meat in it. That is what we're going after."

CFC is asking Ottawa to require certification at the border, likely a USDA inspector's signature, saying whether or not a shipment contains spent fowl.  "You either bring in chicken or you bring in spent fowl.  If it's not chicken at the border, then it shouldn't turn into chicken in Canada."

So far, Janzen suggests, it hasn't been a priority for Ottawa.

"We started bringing to government's attention but it fell on deaf ears.  They just thought this wasn't really a problem and it wouldn't escalate to the extent it has today," he explains, noting part of the challenge is that any change would require approval from multiple government departments.  "We've had very good support from [Agriculture] Minister Ritz, but it's multi-jurisdictional.  You need CBSA, CFIA, Finance, you need all of these government bodies to deal with this issue."