Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Reply to Walter Jeffries about "Local" Food

Photo by Scott Eklund.


Walter Jeffries made a comment that I think is worth addressing. Mr. Jeffries raises and markets pigs himself. His situation in Vermont is clearly very different from ours in eastern Washington.

Me: "Food is physical. How it tastes is a function of its chemistry. If you really care about flavor, that's what you need to pay attention to."

Jeffries: Yes. Small farmers can pay more attention to this 'little' detail a lot better than they're doing on the large 'farms'. Craftsmanship.
I think the topic of the size of a producer and their craftsmanship is a fascinating issue.

As I pointed out, Saveur's list of good butter has a bunch of American butters (from what appear to be fairly small operations) along with a bunch of gigantic European producers. If you only look at big American food companies, you might think that agribusiness can only churn out lousy products. If you look at European companies, you'll see that big companies can produce great products - often more efficiently than smaller competitors.

When it comes to meat, the situation in America works against small farmers - due to the law that requires that meat and meat-products be produced under USDA inspection. As I've mentioned, we can produce excellent finished pigs - but once we start dealing with USDA processors, it can all go downhill - because we can't control the processor.

Hence, if a company is going to produce the best meat consistently, it needs to either have a good processor, or it needs to be big enough to have its own processing. Small farmers need to be lucky and have a good processor.

Me: "Locally produced stuff that you can buy is often inferior - because the very best stuff gets moved to where the money is."

Jeffries:

No. Stuff that is produced remotely is often mass produced in factory farms using bad chemistry. See #1 above.

Stuff we produce for our own family is the ultimate in local and has the highest quality and best taste. I couldn't afford to buy what we produce.

Other people in our area are producing superior products to what is shipped in. Vermont produces the highest grade maple syrup. Fresh produce is locally available and is far better quality than what is shipped in. We have plenty of high quality local meats. We also have quality craftsmen producing stone and wood products from local resources - yes, they ship to non-local markets, but you can also get those same things right here and a lot cheaper.

Lastly, just because it is the best stuff it doesn't mean it gets moved to where the most money is. We produce premium pastured pork yet only sell locally. I'm not interested in shipping meat. It's that simple. I get requests weekly to ship live pigs and to ship meat but it isn't something I want to deal with. No need since I can sell locally. Local customers are getting the advantage of being local and getting the highest quality for that reason.
Mr. Jeffries seems to have misunderstood me. I was talking about "the very best", not "the mediocre." He's right that a lot of mediocre stuff moves great distances; that's how America's food system works.

But he's ignoring what I wrote: the very best stuff moves to the consumers with money, who pay to have it sent to them - which is exactly the case with Vermont maple syrup, which moves to people who pay for it.

When Vermont maple syrup moves to Canada (a producer of maple syryp), those Canadians who insist on buying Canadian are buying stuff inferior to that from Vermont. And when the very highest grade of Vermont maple syrup leaves for places like New York and Dubai, the syrup remaining in Vermont (that locals get to buy) isn't as good as the best.

In light of the fact that the "eat local" crowd in both Vermont and Canada generally isn't getting the best, I wrote, "Locally produced stuff that you can buy is often inferior - because the very best stuff gets moved to where the money is."
Me: "Small production is often less efficient - particularly less fuel efficient. Distribution in America greatly favors big producers."

Jeffries:

No, this is fundamentally wrong. You're looking at too little of the equation and possibly bad examples. Your thesis is simply wrong.

We use virtually no fuel for production. We pasture our animals. They collect their own food most of the year. They distribute their own manure all year. Distribution is local. We use almost no fuel to get our pork to our customers. We're far more efficient than any large scale production or medium scale production.
Mr. Jeffries is blessed to live in an area where he can distribute pork efficiently. In the West, small farmers have to haul there animals to slaughter and haul their meat to the farmers' market (perhaps several times, if it doesn't sell out the first time). This article hints at how bad things are.

Due to the USDA processing requirement, farmers in California's Napa have to haul their animals about 3 hours to get them slaughtered. Then they have to haul the meat back for processing. Farmers in western Washington have similar problems. The situation is fuel inefficient, in addition being tough on the animals.

Many don't know that it costs roughly as much to haul one pig as a full trailer - and the same applies to other freight. So it is a lot more efficient to operate in a large scale, integrated fashion. E.g. it costs Iowa hog producers $.20/lb to move a pig from Iowa to Oakland. In the best case, that's about 5-10 times more efficient than someone moving loads of freight from Washington to Oakland - which is why I say that distribution favors big producers.
Me: "Small farmers living in rural areas without garbage collection degrade the environment more than their city-living customers suspect."

Jeffries:

This is an asinine comment and untrue. First of all, we generate far less trash than city people. But that is a life style choice more than anything else. People in the city choose a lifestyle that creates a huge footprint on the earth... Secondly, why do you assume we dump our trash on the landscape (lack of collection?). We take our trash, the very little amount we produce, to the transfer station about once every month or two when enough has built up and it is a zero cost trip since we're doing other errands or deliveries too. Furthermore, 90% of what we take goes to recycling. It isn't even trash. Our family of five generates about one medium bag of actual trash per month...We are degrading the environment far less than city-living people. Our footprint is tiny in comparison. Your comment is totally off base and bogus. Jeez, get real. Maybe you degrade the environment because you don't get trash pickup or something but don't apply your ways to the rest of us rural folk.
I didn't write that rural folks degrade the environment more than city folk - but Mr. Jeffries seems to think I wrote that. Nor did I say anything specifically about Mr. Jeffries, whom I'm happy to hear is extremely responsible.

Sadly, in in the West and much of the USA garbage collection in rural areas is expensive. Rural people have ranch dumps, or illegal dumps, and they burn their garbage. Or perhaps they go and illegally dump their trash. If you consider the terrible problem of removing trash, broken equipment and other stuff from a rural area, it all makes sense: hauling it out there makes sense. Once it is trash, it is best to just burn it or dump it somewhere. Illegal dumping is a way of life in much of rural America.

My original point was merely that most city-dwellers take garbage collection for granted, so they don't wonder where their favorite small farmers are putting all their garbage or junk. In general, I suspect city customers would like to think that their small farmer is necessarily a steward of the land who doesn't burn a lot of fossil fuels (per pound of product) compared to the big agribusiness. In general, I don't think things are so rosy.
Mr. Jeffries: You claim a lot of uniqueness. You do a lot of marketing. You keep saying you don't have product though when someone asks for it. Interestingly, This Search yields lots (>800) of other info about breeders of wooly pigs not at woolypigs. There are quite a few breeders in the USA. I have heard other people claim they were the original importers of this breed. I don't know what the truth is but it is interesting.
There's nobody else with Mangaltisa pigs in the USA. Although Mr. Jeffries has stated, "There are quite a few breeders in the USA," he cannot name another American breeder with Mangalitsa pigs.

The first batch of Mangalitsa market hogs is still quite young, so we haven't killed many of them. The few we killed have all been sold. We'll kill more in the next few months.
Mr. Jeffries: By the way, I took a look at the photo of loin you mentioned. I'm not impressed. Way too much fat, way not enough meat, too much back fat. That pig is over fed - you're wasting feed or slaughtering too late and it's not getting enough exercise. Could be simply poor genetics. Of course, it is hard to evaluate the taste over the internet. :)
That's how an older Mangalitsa's loin looks. The fat on that thing is delicious. It really isn't like normal pork.

Although Mr. Jeffries (and many consumers) don't like how it looks, in places like Austria and Spain, that fatty pork, like fatty tuna or Wagyu beef, sells at a premium (3-5 times normal stuff). Japanese consumers pay a lot to eat that sort of meat; they freeze and ship the meat from Spain to Japan.



The fatback that Mr. Jeffries doesn't like can pay for the pig. A properly fattened Mangalitsa pig - see the photo above - can bring a restaurant $8,500 or so in revenue.

There's a similar phenomenon with Wagyu. Many consumer think this meat is too fatty. But many consumers love it, and pay a lot of money for it.
Mr. Jeffries: You do seem to be marketing it well and getting lots of press. The real test is how long you'll keep doing so and how the sales will be. Is it sustainable for you?
Although we have only killed a few Mangalitsa, many of those who've eaten it have been delighted by it. We've also managed to take standard meat-type hogs and produce highly-preferred products by applying what we learned in Austria - despite our processing troubles.

So far we are doing well.
Mr. Jeffries: One last thought, I'm curious on the boar taint. You say you castrate if you think the pig will have boar taint. Have you tested for boar taint (smell is obvious) and if so at what ages? We've been doing a lot of experimenting. The oldest intact sexually active boar kept with the breeding herd we've now done was 30 months of age and had no taint. We haven't had any taint ever in our herd so we now don't castrate unless a customer demands it - and then we charge extra for the service. I am curious if you have found any boar taint in your pigs.
We don't know. We err on the side of castration, because we don't want to waste a pig. The rule in Austria is that if the animal hasn't had sex, it is OK even if it is 7 months old.
Mr. Jeffries: There are many things we agree on about pigs but you've gone off the far end with this post and the previous one. Stick to facts.
I feel I've stuck to the facts. I'm sorry if I've bothered people like Mr. Jeffries. My goal was to show people some of the counterintuitive things I've learned.

27 comments:

Raises pigs on pasture said...

I think that there is something that people need to keep in mind when addressing Heath's comments on buying local. Heath is attempting to produce a product that ranks in the top 1% of similar products. As such, his potential market, as a consequence of the high price of his product, is extremely limited in any given geographic area. It should be obvious, therefore, that Heath needs to ship his product far and wide in order to be successful. He needs Chicago. He needs Manhattan. He needs Miami. As a result, Heath must be critical of the buy local movement as a simple matter of self interest. He will find and cling to any argument he can find to minimize the potential damage that the buy local movement could do to his bottom line, and so his arguments should be taken with a grain of salt.

Nevertheless, commenters like Walter Jeffries miss the point that Heath desires to create a top 1% product, and so try to make counter arguments that compare apples to oranges. For example, Heath is correct that the vast majority of the production of top 1% products are almost always exported (whether nationally or internationally), although some of course is sold locally to the tiny percentage of local people that can afford it. This is the case even for Vermont maple syrup.

Walter's example of his own pork being sold only locally misses Heath's point completely. While I am sure that Walter's pork is good, maybe even great, I highly doubt it is much better than my own, which is raised, processed, and handled in a manner very similar to Walter's. Both Walter's and my own pork is infinitely better than supermarket pork, but it is not top 1%. Remember that top 1% products are world class products, which is exactly what Heath hopes to make. Whether he will do so successfully remains to be seen.

Please note that I am not defending Heath. I think his efforts are vain and obscene in their luxury. I just think it is important to point out the fact that Heath is talking about producing a top 1% product and to point out the ways in which his efforts color his perception and arguments, and to request that in arguments with Heath we compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges.

bruceki said...

I can't fault anyone (heath included) for offering to charge what the market will bear. In fact, given special diet, importation costs and so on, I'd be surprised if he didn't. If I invest money in a venture, I'd like to think that people would think it fair that I get that money back, with some return.

In fact, Heath has caused a small run in berkshire weaners and gilts and so on in washington state -- which has been good for me. Having a market leader in price helps all producers. I'd much rather say "my pork is $8/lb vs $16 or $25 " than "my pork is $8/lb vs $1.99". Much easier sell to consumers.

Where I'm coming from is that heaths' product is being produced without the austrian/hungarian infrastruture. You don't have a history of curing this type of pork here -- it all left 50 or more years ago. So I think that selling it on the basis of what they can do in austria is a bit of a stretch. There aren't any consumer-level cured products from heaths pigs at all, and wouldn't be for several years even if they were hanging and curing now.

What to do? The closer a farmer can get to selling to the consumer, the better. For cured pork products, it may be time for farmers to start thinking about producing their own. I'd much rather see a farm get the $59 a pound they're proposing to sell the iberica hams for in July of 2008 than split that money with an importer.

On a competitive front, if heath is successful at making a market for mangalitsa, there's nothing to stop someone else from importing the same stock, and the 2nd guy to do it has a much easier time, and a proven market to sell to. Fedex and a few tubes of semen would do it. Yep, you'd start with 50/50 crosses, but successive breedings could bring that percentage up to any amount you desired.

summary: Profit is what allows innovation. Heaths product is innovative. In my opinion he's got the production down, now needs to work on getting closer to the consumer -- or maybe to drop the consumer market altogether and sell only to chefs (who would enjoy a monopoly, I'm sure) that would make their menu offerings unique.

Walter Jeffries said...

On the castration: Test it. You may find that you don't have boar taint in your herd and thus don't need to castrate.

On the best being shipped out and inferior product being what is left, you're simply wrong. I live hear and know it for our maple syrup, the case cited in the example. Our pastured pork is another example: I simply refuse to ship. Thus the best quality remains right here. Money doesn't buy everything and it doesn't suck up all the top quality products. Your own examples in Austria prove my point, you cite many examples on your "Austrian Farms" pages of the best being sold locally because the small farmers aren't interested in expanding past those markets.

Your complaints of distance to processors and problems with those processors are the same as we see here. You can deal with it by efficient scheduling and handling. Avoid those multi-run trips you describe where you're handling the same product multiple times. Also do efficient loads - one pig at a time makes it hard to spread out your costs. You say I'm blessed or lucky, neither have anything to do with it. Plan carefully.

If you're having such a hard time with the USDA plants, Heath, I would strongly suggest you setup your own USDA inspected slaughter house, butcher shop and smoke house. The volume to justify it is not as large as you might think. If you get up to the point of selling over five pigs a week it may be more than worth it and then you can really control the quality. Look into it...

"I didn't write that rural folks degrade the environment more than city folk - but Mr. Jeffries seems to think I wrote that."

Actually, that is exactly what you wrote. You are wrong and I'm glad to hear you back peddling on that absurd statement. It is still an incorrect statement. The ranch dumps that you cite have nothing to do with the rest of us. Some city people dump their garbage on the street all the time but I don't think that is what you would use for your standard either.

"That's how an older Mangalitsa's loin looks. The fat on that thing is delicious. It really isn't like normal pork."

Aye, and the fat on our pigs gets raves from the high chefs too. But that wasn't the point I was making. You had asked for a comment on the loin and I gave it -That loin is so lacking in meat and has too much fat. I can purposefully get the same fat back layer but it is a waste of feed. People, and Chefs, want more meat on the cut than that one has. This is of course a highly preferential thing and if you can sell the fat so well that's swell. But you had asked for an opinion.

"Although we have only killed a few Mangalitsa, many of those who've eaten it have been delighted by it. We've also managed to take standard meat-type hogs and produce highly-preferred products by applying what we learned in Austria - despite our processing troubles."

Actually, you remind me of a lot of other businesses I've seen come and go over the years who sink a lot of money into something. The question is will you be there next year, five years, ten years, twenty five years, etc. Is it sustainable both environmentally and economically. I see a lot of hype and marketing but you haven't done it long enough to show it. It will be interesting to watch.

But back to the original topics. You were making claims that the best products aren't available locally. You've also said that we rural people were degrading the environment. Both of these premises are fundamentally wrong. I've cited why so I won't go over all the reason again. I find your reasoning and your justifications bizarre. It makes me wonder why you're saying these thing. What is the deep reason.

Jan said...

As one who has lived in the USA and in differing countries of Europe for 38 years I can tell you first hand that you're off base. Those gigacorporations you're so fond of in Europe do not produce superior quality to the local smaller producers. They produce quantity. Just like over the pond in the USA. A point you miss is there is a market for both quality and quantity. That is the way it has always been and will always be despite the best intentions and desires of egalitarians and socialists alike. A great many will buy the low and medium end products and the few will buy the high end. That is natural. Nothing wrong with it either. What does happen is as the big take over the small they usually destroy the value and quality.

sheridan said...

>>The rule in Austria is that if the animal hasn't had sex, it is OK even if it is 7 months old.

Uhh... I'm almost afraid to ask, but what happens when the pig has sex?

Al said...

Your posts have a 'know-it-all' tone which tends to annoy people, particularly when it becomes obvious that you really don't know it all. It undermines much of your valid argument.
Your assumption that maple syrup from Vermont is the best in the world is simply silly, an American hubris, and it doesn't help support your general thesis.
There is no definition or agreement of a 'best' maple syrup grade among consumers, just personal preference and how the syrup is to be used. The lightest grade is usually the most expensive because less of it is produced. Canada has 4 grades while Vermont/USDA has only 3 grades. The one missing in the US is the 'extra light', the most expensive but only because it's the most scarce.
Your posts are thought provoking, but your assumptions and writing style will encourage readers to tune you out.

Charlotte said...

My late brother was always on the hunt for Grade B Maple syrup -- he'd done some syruping when he was in school in Vermont, and he liked the darker stuff. Which, incidentally was hard to find outside of the state. Just a little memory ... tastes do vary, as do accolades ...

Anonymous said...

Stumbled across your blog from Ruhlman's....

Personally, I really admire what you are doing Heath. In fact, I am fascinated. However, I agree with some previous commenters. I think you need to change your tone or the way you approach your blogging. While I agree with your points and think that you are doing a great thing, obviously some other people do not. And from the looks of it, I don't think either of you will concede on your beliefs. While I myself do not have the knowledge to contend with Mr. Jeffries (I agree with your points, Heath, just I cannot claim any authority to disagree with Mr. Jeffries also), I think in the end, someone like me who stumbles across this and reads the crossfire will find it silly and reflects poorly on everyone involved.

Obviously, Wooly Pigs are in a completely different situation than other producers like Mr. Jeffries. The previous poster is completely correct in saying it is like comparing apples to oranges. But I would take it even one step further. I have seen the back and forth arguments as simply a battle between two men who have enormous pride in what they do (and rightfully so).

To you Walter, obviously you are doing great and believe in what you do. While I think that Heath's points are completely valid, obviously you do not. I am not trying to say you are wrong, but I think Heath is simply sharing his opinions and beliefs on the food industry as it compares to the context of his situation and goals. And obviously those differs from yours which give you different opinions as well. I don't think it is wrong to believe that both of you are right, just what is right for you, is not right for the other.

I don't know, Heath. Like I said, I am fascinated by what you are doing. However, I was always taught to avoid conflict unless it's made personal. I don't think Walter has brought it to that level yet, but I think you will save yourself (and us who are observing) a lot of trouble by not opening yourself up to so much criticism. That's just my personal opinion. I also understand that you are who you are, and that whatever tone or approach you use on this blog is up to your discretion. And if you believe you are being truly helpful and resourceful, than keep doing what you're doing. Just saying from an outside perspective, a back and forth argument on a blog to an average hack like me... is well... fruitless.

Anonymous said...

Heath you are taking the idea of buying local to an extreme. Just because I prefer to buy local when possible doesn't mean I sacrifice quality or only buy locally. Buying local is just one more of many of the possible criteria for making a buying decision. If I could buy from my neighbor and she produced what I wanted then I would prefer her over some more distant supplier. Not need to get so fanatical about it.

Kevin Kossowan said...

Heath. Dude. You need some props here. Let me say this: one is able to post whatever the heck one wishes in a blog. You could be claiming aliens make your pork awesome, and really, you're totally entitled to blog about that. If people want to tune out because they don't think aliens make pork taste good, they should tune out indeed, read something else, and lay off.

You believe what you believe for a reason, and your unique viewpoint is just as valuable as theirs. If they feel so strongly, perhaps they should start a blog as well to express their viewpoint, and let others crap on how they think and feel about things.

Heath said...

raises pigs on pasture - Thanks for your perceptive remarks.

I don't see the buy local movement as getting in my way - as long as people understand that what I'm selling doesn't (at this time) have substitutions. If someone lives in North, South or Central America, I'm their "local" Mangalitsa provider.

I don't see what's obscene about trying to make what I'm making. In some places, what I'm making would just be considered food. How do you decide what's obscene? Where do you draw the line?

bruceki - Again you've got assumptions about what one can and can't do. E.g. before you thought one could just import Mangalitsa products (and do it cheaper than I sell my meat). Now you are saying that one can just import semen or stock. The USDA forbids that right now; you can't do it at any price.

Walter Jeffries - you seem to have misunderstood me. I didn't say "always" - I specifically said "often". That is, the locally available stuff is often (but not necessarily always) inferior. If you were to say, "sows are often smaller than boars," and then I point out that your boss sow is bigger than your boar, that doesn't make your generalization false.

You likewise misunderstood me when I wrote, "Small farmers living in rural areas without garbage collection degrade the environment more than their city-living customers suspect."

I did not, as you say, write that rural folks degrade the environment more than city folk.

Please read my statement carefully: I'm remarking on the understanding that city folk have about rural life (generally a poor one), not what rural people actually do. The root of the problem is that most city people don't have a clue about rural life.

Jan - a lot of giant corporations in Europe produce products superior to those of American producers (big or small). Smaller producers with proper incentives to produce something good can produce better products than big ones. But one fundamental problem that hits small American producers is the inability to buy high quality raw material, like milk, hops, almonds, pork, etc. If you can't buy the right ingredients, you can't process them into high quality products. Another big problem is that there aren't any real standards for trades - so improperly trained people become producers and do bad things.

sheridan - if they have sex, the young boars supposedly mature quicker. Part of that is them producing sexual hormones. Keeping them away from females supposedly slows that process.

Kevin Kossowan - I'm happy you like my blog. I seem to have bothered quite a few people with my remarks. I don't get what bothers them so much.

bruceki said...

heath, animals and products can be imported -- as your importation of your herd shows. Not sure why you want to say they cannot be -- they can be, and are.

American agriculture is adept at bringing in whatever stock best suits a market. I'm sure that if you do find a sufficient demand for your product that other people will import the breed. In fact, that's precisely what happened in the UK, facilitated by an austrian breeders group.

Walter Jeffries said...

"If you were to say, "sows are often smaller than boars," and then I point out that your boss sow is bigger than your boar, that doesn't make your generalization false. "

Except that that has nothing to do with anything and my boss sow is not bigger than my big boars. What odd statements you make.

Heath said...

bruceki - as you wrote, "heath, animals and products can be imported -- as your importation of your herd shows. Not sure why you want to say they cannot be -- they can be, and are."

I specifically explained that right now you can't import them from the EU. Although it was possible at one time to import them from some EU countries, that is not possible now. The rules have changed.

Similarly, it used to be possible to use freon in a fridge and DDT as an insecticide. The fact that I once used freon in my fridge and DDT to kill bugs doesn't mean that I or you can do it now.

If you'd read my comment more carefully, you'd have noticed the words "right now" and understood.

Heath said...

Walter Jeffries - you've attempted to argue that my generalization (about how city people imagine rural people live) is false by citing one example of a rural farmer not degrading the environment.

Similarly, if one were to make a general statement about size differences between the sexes, one could remark that some females are bigger than males. That one example wouldn't negate the truthfulness of the generalization.

bruceki said...

Heath -- i can now import breeding swine and swine semen from several areas of the EU (the UK and germany, for instance) that have populations of mangalitsa.

As I stated, any breeder that wanted a mangalitsa herd is free to import them as you did.

Don't take my word for it.

http://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/animals/animal_import/animal_imports_csf.shtml

bruceki said...

Not sure why it's truncating the URL.

http://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/animals/animal_import/animal_imports_csf.shtml

cut and paste if the link above doesn't work due to truncation:

http://www.aphis.usda.gov/
import_export/animals/
animal_import/
animal_imports_csf.shtml

Heath said...

bruceki - The document you provided a link to, "Countries/Regions Considered Free or Low Risk of Classical Swine Fever (CSF)", is only about one disease the USDA's is concerned with keeping out of the USA - classical swine fever. That isn't a list of countries from which you can import swine.

Why do you persist in saying it is possible to import animals from the EU to the USA?

Why don't you believe me when I say it isn't possible? Wouldn't I have a lot to lose by appearing dishonest?

Why are you so confident about this stuff, just as you were so confident that one could not only import Mangalitsa products, but do it so economically that it would be cheaper than my fresh Mangalitsa?

bruceki said...

Heath, I'll make it easy for you. I've cut and pasted the relevant paragraphs. The first is a list of countries -- note that germany and the UK are on that list.

The second is the current (as of Feb 28th, 2008) import status of those countries. The current regulations that apply to importing swine from those countries.

I, or anyone else, can import swine or semen from those countries.

HEATH: LIST OF COUNTRIES

**APHIS-defined EU CSF Region= The European Union Member States of Austria, Belgium,
The Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom (England, Isle Of Man, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales)
Fiji
Iceland

HEATH: CURRENT EXPORT (import to the USA) LIMITATIONS

** Exports Limited to Breeding Swine, Swine Semen and Pork and Pork Products Subject to Restrictions in CFR 94.24 and 98.38

You'll note that iberica hams are scheduled for retail sale in the US in July, 2008.

Heath said...

bruceki - Being able to import pigs (or semen or embryos) into the USA requires more than the exporting country being CSF free.

Importing anything - particularly things that can harbor disease, like food or live animals - is very complicated.

Just because you see something in the CFR that erroneously makes you think it is possible doesn't mean that it is. Just because it was possible to do it a few months ago doesn't mean it is allowed now.

You should believe me - I've actually imported pigs from the EU. I've jumped through all the required hoops to actually do it. I also call the USDA regularly to find out what's allowed.

What you are saying is possible is not now allowed. You are wrong - just as you were wrong when you said it was possible to import Mangalitsa products.

At some point it will probably be possible to import pigs, semen and embryos from the EU. But even when that is true, it does not mean that it will be possible to economically import that stuff in the manner you have described - e.g. order up some semen and produce animals with more and more Mangalitsa genetics.

E.g. to import semen, you've got to have boars from which to collect semen. I don't know of a single Mangalitsa boar that's been trained for semen collection. Then you've got to get the boar into a quarantine station for collection. Then you've got to get your import protocol and permit from the USDA. That's a very expensive and time consuming process.

So even if it is eventually possible to import things from the EU, folks like yourself who just want to order up semen the way you order up books from Amazon may not be able to do it for many years.

bruceki said...

I can't get any clearer than I have been, Heath. You keep claiming that it's impossible to import items like cured pork or live products, and I've given you the references, both retail and governmental, that say it's being done.

You imported swine yourself. I don't know why you believe that noone else could possibly do what you've done. Yep, there are hoops to jump through.

Comments like "...don't know of a single Mangalitsa boar that's been trained for semen collection." just point out something that I said a long time ago-- having the money to buy some livestock doesn't make you an expert. There are many things you have no idea about, Heath.


Finally, importing semen or embryos is the traditional (and economical) way to import stock. Heath, you personally don't use AI but it's a standard way to breed pigs, here, and in many other countries. And the import restrictions on semen, ovum and embryos aren't as stringent as on live animals.

but you don't know about any of that.

Heath said...

Bruceki - you are misunderstanding me. I've tried to explain this stuff to you about 4-5 times. I'll try it again one final time.

bruceki: I can't get any clearer than I have been, Heath. You keep claiming that it's impossible to import items like cured pork or live products, and I've given you the references, both retail and governmental, that say it's being done.

My claim was that you can't economically import Mangalitsa products - as you claimed.

A look at the history of Iberico importation will make it clear why that is: unless the hogs get killed and their meat processed in a USDA-inspected plant, the meat can't enter the USA. To my knowledge, no Mangalitsa products are being done that way - hence, it is currently impossible to economically import Mangalitsa.

Circumstances could change - but that's not the point. Right now, it can't be done. Unless I misunderstood you, you claimed it could be done -- right now.

bruceki: You imported swine yourself. I don't know why you believe that noone else could possibly do what you've done. Yep, there are hoops to jump through.

Of course people may be able to import pigs in the future. But if you go to the USDA and ask for an import protocol for pigs from the EU right now they'll tell you there isn't one. Hence you won't get an import permit, and you can't bring in pigs, semen, embryos, etc.

As I said, right now, you can't bring that stuff in. Perhaps things will change - but right now it is impossible.

I called the USDA a week ago, and they explained this to me. I will call them tomorrow and they'll likely say the same.

bruceki: Comments like "...don't know of a single Mangalitsa boar that's been trained for semen collection." just point out something that I said a long time ago-- having the money to buy some livestock doesn't make you an expert. There are many things you have no idea about, Heath.

If you can show me the boar, I'll believe you.Otherwise I have to go by what I know, as a result of my contacts with Mangalitsa breeders - which tell me that there's no boar out there from which one can order semen.

If you are saying such a boar exists, please just settle things by showing me a Mangalitsa boar used for semen collection. Likewise, show me a source for Mangalitsa cured products that I can legally bring into the USA. Please show me a valid USDA import protocol for swine from the EU.

Until you can show me those things, I will go with what I've learned so far: they don't exist yet.

bruceki: Finally, importing semen or embryos is the traditional (and economical) way to import stock. Heath, you personally don't use AI but it's a standard way to breed pigs, here, and in many other countries. And the import restrictions on semen, ovum and embryos aren't as stringent as on live animals.

but you don't know about any of that.

I'm aware of the import laws; I'm the last person to import swine from Europe. I'm also aware of how the industrial pig world operates.

You erroneously assume that Mangalitsa breeders work the same as their modern counterparts. That's simply not true. As best I can find out, the Hungarians - the people who raise Mangalitsa industrially - are using natural service, not AI.

I am more than ready to believe you though. Simply show me evidence of any of the following:

1) A source of Mangalitsa products that one can legally import into the USA.

2) A valid import protocol allowing one to import either swine, semen or embryos from the EU to the USA.

3) A Mangalitsa boar trained for semen collection, or some entity selling Mangalitsa semen from a quarantine station that the USDA, under normal circumstances, would allow to export to the USA. Or someone - anyone - offering Mangalitsa embryos.

To my knowledge, those 3 things don't exist now. Of course, they might exist at some time in the future - but right now they don't exist.

bruceki said...

heath, you have made the claim that you're calling the usda weekly. What is the name, and the telephone number of the person you're calling?

I've backed up what I've said with links and proof. All I've got to back your opinion is your assertion that it's true. If you're calling, give me the name and number. I just don't believe you're calling them every week, or even every month. My guess is you're happy having imported your herd and are selling them -- as most folks would be.

Iberico hams are scheduled for sale. Don't see much of a problem for mangalitsa products. If the profit is there, the product will be.

Heath said...

bruceki: ""you have made the claim that you're calling the usda weekly. What is the name, and the telephone number of the person you're calling?
I've backed up what I've said with links and proof."

Where did I claim I'm calling them weekly? Please show me that. I don't call them weekly, and I certainly don't remember claiming that.


You haven't proved anything - as I explained, the CSF status of a country doesn't determine whether or not you can import swine from that country.

Unless you can show me any of the three things (source of mangalitsa products, import protocol for EU swine or Mangalitsa boar trained for semen collection in a quarantine station) that I requested you to show, I'm not willing to spend any more time on you.

bruceki said...

Heath, you have claimed several times that you call the USDA regularly.

The most recent was in THIS conversational thread, and I quote:

"You should believe me - I've actually imported pigs from the EU. I've jumped through all the required hoops to actually do it. I also call the USDA regularly to find out what's allowed. "

The protocol for importing pigs from the EU is cfr 94.24, and it is in place now. I have called the USDA to inquire about this, and confirmed that this protocol is in place and available to anyone who wants to import any breeding stock from the EU countries I listed.

there are four sources of mangalitsa semen from EU breeders. Recall that austria isn't the only producer of these animals, and the swallow belly is not the sole type of mangalitsa. It happens to be the one you chose and are most familiar with, but it's not the only mangalitsa.

I have given you references and backed up what I've said, both for importation of cured pork products and live pork from the EU. You have a huge vested interest in being a sole provider of this pig -I understand completely your unwillingness to back up any of your claims.

Heath said...

bruceki - you make very specific claims - in some cases, claims about what I'm claiming - that are erroneous.

E.g. you wrote, "heath, you have made the claim that you're calling the usda weekly."

Of course I never claimed that. Indeed, I call the USDA regularly - and even called them this morning. And I found out that your other claims are also incorrect.

Here are your new claims:

"The protocol for importing pigs from the EU is cfr 94.24, and it is in place now. I have called the USDA to inquire about this, and confirmed that this protocol is in place and available to anyone who wants to import any breeding stock from the EU countries I listed."

You have a fundamental misunderstanding about things. The CFR isn't an import protocol. An import protocol is a very specific document that you get from the USDA that allows one to import something. This is the import protocol that I used to import my swine.

And it wouldn't be CFR 94.24 anyway - perhaps you meant 9 CFR 94? But even that wouldn't make sense - isn't 9 CFR 94.24 about stuff from Baja California? Where's the connection to the EU?

The bureacrat I talk to at the USDA informed me that if and when the USA and EU work out a new protocol that would allow for swine, semen and embryo importation, it will be in 9 CFR 93.500-528.

He confirmed that right now, it is not possible to import swine, semen or embryos from the UK, Austria or any other EU countries.

I asked you to provide me with sources for Mangalitsa semen. You've only state that they exist -- "there are four sources of mangalitsa semen from EU breeders."

So what are their names? Where are they? Can we see pictures of the boars?

I can't take your word that Mangalitsa boar semen can be bought. Given all the mistakes and erroneous claims you've made, I need more proof before I'll believe you.

bruceki: "I have given you references and backed up what I've said, both for importation of cured pork products and live pork from the EU."

No, you really haven't. There's no way that someone could take the information that you've presented and identify a source for Mangalitsa semen and import some or import some cured Mangalitsa products into the USA legally. Despite claiming that it is possible to import semen, you can't provide an import protocol. Whatever you were trying to refer to in the CFR, it doesn't look like an import protocol.

All you've done is waste more of my time.

The reason why I bothered to write this response is to show you that you are undeniably wrong.

bruceki: You have a huge vested interest in being a sole provider of this pig -I understand completely your unwillingness to back up any of your claims.

I've claimed that things don't exist or are impossible - and I've shown why that's the case. All you have to do to prove me wrong is to show that they do exist, or are possible.

E.g. I claim there's no source for cured Mangalitsa products that one can legally import. All you have to do is show one source.

I claim it isn't possible to bring in pigs or semen from the EU right now. All you have to do is show a current import protocol from the USDA - which is evidence sufficient to show that it is possible.

Any reasonable person would see that you have it quite easy here.

平平 said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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