McPherse Thompson, Assistant Editor - Business
Caribbean Broilers has shelved its plans to dispose of unused chicken parts by incorporating it in ingredients for the manufacture of poultry feed, in a swift reaction to public response decrying the company's intentions.
Last week, its main competitor, Jamaica Broilers, itself reacting to reports that Caribbean Broilers was contemplating establishing a protein recovery facility that would convert the chicken waste, said the company does "not feed chicken to chicken."
This prompted a reaction from Caribbean Broilers which, in an advertisement in Tuesday's edition of The Gleaner, assured customers "that we have never fed chicken to chicken and will not be doing so."
Rather, Caribbean Broilers said, the company was currently researching environmentally friendly ways to dispose of unused chicken parts. It said one such method was rendering, "a process by which the parts are superheated, dehydrated and sterilised, resulting in a product which is in demand on the international market."
The company added: "In fact, we have been actively exploring these prospects for export."
Caribbean Broilers' assessment of public reaction to the issue reported in Sunday Business, were primarily through telephone calls and blogs on newspaper websites, said the company's Manager for Corporate Affairs, Dr Keith Amiel.
But he added that a lot of those blogs were misleading, "because we are talking about chicken and they invariably refer to mad cow disease and BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) and beef. There's no plan to run beef products, but the public switches from one thing to the other without focusing."
Last week, president and chief executive officer of Jamaica Broilers, Christopher Levy, said that company would also be entering into a contract to export unused chicken parts.
Amiel told Wednesday Business the company would focus on the export market because the rendered product is tradable around the world.
In the United States, the rendering industry, with at least 250 plants in operation during the 1990s, according a New York Times report, rakes in billions of dollars in revenues annually from brews of feet, heads, stomachs, intestines, hooves, spinal cords,
tails, grease, feathers and bones of cows, chickens and other animals - parts which are not consumed by humans.
Research shows that renderers in the United States pick up millions of pounds of waste animal meat every day which, according to experts, would result in a terrible air pollution if they were burnt and create a colossal health problem if they were all put in landfills.
"Not doing it is going back in time," said Amiel, pointing to Caribbean islands such as Grenada where operators of a 5,000 chickens a day processing plant, and Belize with a 10,000 a day facility - much smaller than Jamaica's - have been mandated to create rendering plants to dispose of waste because of environmental concerns.
Amiel said the intent of Caribbean Broilers was to examine better ways of disposing of the product and at the same time improve efficiency "because it's a saleable product, it's traded internationally, there are many countries that accept it. For instance, the United States wants to use it."
The idea of researching an environmentally option "is to minimise waste and to maximise returns, and in minimising waste we have to be conscious of the environmental problems especially in a small country with all these communities. We have to dispose of it in a way that they don't get into streams and rivers," he said.
Increasing efficiency, he said, meant looking at increasing returns from those elements within the industry - "the other parts of the chicken that we don't consume," but which have a value when turned into protein or "which could actually be turned into biodiesel to run our trucks, for instance".
As it relates to the company's about-turn relating to the use of unused parts in the production of feed, Amiel said: "We are interested in being good corporate citizens. That involves being sensitive to the wants and needs and wishes of the community in which we function and based on that, because the story has not yet been told in an objective manner so that our people understand and grasp what we are trying to do, we have decided not to do it."