Local News

Russian Boycott Of U.S. Poultry Ruffling Feathers In N.C.

Posted March 15, 2002

— Russia has imposed a total trade embargo on U.S. poultry and that has ruffled some feathers in North Carolina -- one of the largest poultry-producing states.

The embargo could impact what consumers pay for chicken and turkey.

"Russia is one of the largest importers of poultry in the world, and we happen to be the largest supplier of poultry to Russia," said Brian Sheldon of North Carolina State University's poultry science department.

Half of all poultry produced in the United States is exported to Russia. However, Russian officials have questioned the sanitization of U.S. meat and the use of growth hormones.

"My area is actually in food safety," said Shelton. "I believe the U.S. industry and the regulatory agencies have done a great job over the last 20 years."

Charles Dix, president of Townsend Poultry, said the ban is surprising.

"There was an agreement in 1996 where we actually had representatives from Russia over. They inspected practically all of the plants in the United States," he said.

In the short run, consumers could see lower prices at the grocery store due to the potential for a glut of poultry on the market. If the ban continues, farms and companies could be forced to leave the business, causing prices to go up.

"Potentially it is a very serious situation, especially if the trade embargo carries on for a lengthy period of time," Dix said.

The embargo could have a big impact on farmers like Kelly Hallman.

The Harnett County farmer raises almost 100,000 chickens each year. She said that even a short interruption in the production chain could have a major effect on poultry farmers.

"We have to have five flocks a year to be able to maintain the farm and make the payments," she said.

Russia may be a world away, but Hallman understands that politicians ultimately hold her world in their hands.

Poultry experts said Russia is a good partner with the United States in the fowl industry because Russians prefer the dark meat, while Americans prefer the white meat.

U.S. trade officials are currently in Russia working to find a solution.

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