Imported chicken that is being declared as spent fowl is displacing Canadian production and costing Canada millions of dollars.

Chicken meat is being fraudulently declared as spent fowl in order to bypass import controls. This not only takes away jobs and income from Canada’s chicken farmers and processors, but also puts Canadian consumers at risk due to broken food chain traceability.

Spent fowl are old laying hens: a by-product of egg and hatching egg production. While broiler chickens are raised for meat consumption, spent fowl hens are raised to lay eggs, and when their productivity declines, they are processed for their meat.

Whereas chicken coming into Canada is subject to import controls, spent fowl is not – there is no limit on how much can be imported. In 2012, Canada imported more spent fowl breast meat than was actually produced in the entire U.S. This is of course impossible, and points directly to the existence of import fraud. In 2016, Canada imported the equivalent of 93% of the U.S.’s entire spent fowl production – despite the fact that the U.S. exports spent fowl to countries other than Canada, and that there is also a substantial American domestic demand for spent fowl meat. Clearly something is amiss.

Not only does this fraudulent activity undermine the Canadian chicken sector’s ability to contribute to the Canadian economy, it also puts Canadian consumers at risk. If there were to be a chicken meat-related food safety recall in the United States, broiler meat imported from there that was mislabeled as spent fowl at the border would evade the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s recall efforts, and could result in cases of serious illness.

What needs to be done?

In order to put an end to fraud and to avoid the importation of mislabeled chicken, the Government of Canada must implement a mandatory certification process for spent fowl, and incorporate, as a means of verification, the DNA test developed by Trent University that can distinguish broiler meat from spent fowl meat.

The Canadian government must also require truth in labeling to inform consumers when spent fowl is present in processed food products. Spent fowl is not chicken and it presents risks to those with egg and egg-related allergies.