SAINT Lucians consume a staggering amount of chicken, confirmed to be over the 80 percent mark. Chicken is not only at the top of the menu but at the top of the shopping list for most families. It is the biggest cash cow of the booming fast food sector.
Poultry has become a front burner issue here since it was announced a few months ago, that importers of chicken will need to satisfy a significantly higher local purchase requirement from 25 to 40 percent. This increase is not without its implications for local poultry producers but our focus here is one the consumers’ ability to make healthier choices.
There seems to be a recurring concern since this discussion began, that local chicken will be pricier than the imported product. It is a legitimate concern given the employment climate. Many low income consumers are attempting to feed their families with very little money and may not have the luxury of making the healthiest and best of choices, sadly enough.
Perhaps one of the ways in which the Ministry of Agriculture can approach this issue is to rally positive consumer response, through a revival of the Buy Local advocacy programme in conjunction with the Ministry of Commerce. It seems to Abetta Country that the Buy Local campaign has sputtered and petted out. The revamping of the campaign should ensure that local poultry producers are given a platform to sell their compliance with the highest standards and regulations required in this industry. Consumers should be reminded of health risks and why chicken from outside markets are sometimes banned.
Poultry diseases are real. There are about 140 of them that have been identified. The use of chemicals in poultry plants from outside markets have been cause for concern in the recent past. Hypodermic needles pumping hormones into birds make for terrifying and serious health concerns and questions about the repercussions of this practice on human beings. This is not an attempt to scare off chicken lovers. This is the reality of some of the goings– on in this industry. Moreover healthy eating of chicken and other meats should form part of the overall thrust to promote healthy lifestyles while reducing the incidence of non–communicable diseases.
By Abetta Country