Russia bans US poultry, cites repeated health and safety issues

August 30, 2008

Starting Sunday, Russia, the top market for US chicken exports, will be banning imports from at least 19 US poultry plants. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced the bans in an interview with CNN, citing what he said were ignored warnings about inspections.

“The inspection showed that many companies had not taken measures to remove flaws revealed during previous checks,” Russia’s agricultural regulator said in a news release.

The Russian Government also said the US uses too many antibiotics in chicken-rearing, and cited cases of salmonella found in recent imports.

Russia has imposed several temporary bans on pork and poultry from various US producers in recent years.

Plants affected include at least two owned by Tyson (the nation’s largest chicken producer), two from Sanderson Farms Inc. (the nation’s fourth largest chicken producer), a Jennie-O Turkey plant owned by Hormel Foods Inc., and other companies not named at this time.

Russia also issued a cautionary statement to 29 other US plants, saying their products showed levels of certain substances higher than Russia allows, according to the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, an export arm for the industry.

Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization, issued a statement on Russia’s decision to ban the import of meat from 19 US poultry companies due to health and disease concerns:

“The decision from Russia, the biggest foreign consumer of U.S. poultry, to ban imports from U.S. poultry companies, and the myriad other meat recalls that have occurred recently in the U.S., illustrate that the American meat supply is shockingly unsafe. Prior to Russia’s ban, 19 poultry facilities ignored warnings from Russian inspectors concerned about excessive levels of antibiotics and arsenic found in their poultry. Far from the idyllic farms people envision, today’s poultry factories crowd thousands of chickens and turkeys tightly into filthy warehouses, where they are given little space to move, made susceptible to disease, and fed antibiotics and arsenic to maximize growth and profitability. These factory farms treat both animals and consumers with complete disregard. The poultry industry’s short sighted desire to prioritize profits over human safety and animal welfare has now backfired, opening America’s factory farms to international scrutiny.”

Tyson said in a statement all its products are safe and it did not believe the bans would have much impact on export sales because two of its plants had not been shipping to Russia.

It noted it had 16 other plants approved for Russian exports and likewise downplayed the importance of Russia as an export market.

“We are doing more business in places such as China, Africa and the Middle East,” Tyson said.

To get the plants reinstated, the US Department of Agriculture can audit them and see if the deficiencies are corrected, the U.S.A. Poultry & Egg Export Council said. The USDA has authority to approve the plants to resume exports to Russia, it said.

The USDA said in a statement late Friday that Russian objections “are not consistent with standards and food safety policies in the United States” and international ones. It said the facilities comply with US food safety regulations.

The export council said it would work with the USDA to see if the banned plants even want to remain eligible for Russian exports.

Farha Aslam, an analyst with Stephens Inc., said the plants that are still eligible will ship more of their products to Russia, while banned plants will find other foreign markets or keep products in the US.

The end result could be higher prices for Russian customers, she wrote in a note Friday, because Russia imports 40 percent of its poultry consumption.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Thursday: “We are in the process of re-evaluating our relationship with Russia, and we are doing that in concert with our international partners.”,,,

One Response to “Russia bans US poultry, cites repeated health and safety issues”

  1. Russia may not be Tyson’s biggest export market, but Russia is the biggest single export market for chicken and other fresh/frozen poultry produced in the USA.

    Even if Tyson isn’t selling most of their export product to Russia, if export product can’t go to other countries it’ll get sold here and depress what Tyson gets for it’s domestically sold product, whether that poultry is being sold in the form of whole poultry or poultry parts or it’s being sold to processors to be tuned into a value added product. Either way, it’ll effect Tyson’s bottom line eventually….

    Some stats from USDA/ERS in order of volume in metric tonnes –
    Russian Federation – 852,551.6 MT
    People’s Republic of China – 300,087.2 MT
    Mexico – 241,565.3 MT
    Canada – 114,11.3 MT
    Lithuania – 107,633.8 MT

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