I recently had the opportunity to participate in the USB (United Soybean Board) 2014 See for Yourself Program. The See for Yourself Program allowed participants to see how U.S. soy is used throughout the world. On our tour we had the opportunity to visit Panama and Ecuador.
The last couple days in Ecuador were spent in the mountainous region of Quito. In this part of the country, we learned more about the importance of chicken and pork to the people’s diets.
Chicken production in Ecuador is very important, as chicken is the most consumed meat per person. We had the opportunity to visit a broiler production farm and a meat processing facility that integrated to raise chickens as well.
An interesting contrast to U.S. employees is that many Ecuadorian workers are paid daily rather than weekly or monthly (I think this is mostly true for lower wage employees). Receiving their wages daily, most people buy their food on a daily basis. It’s not unusual for them to purchase a live chicken to take home to cook for the evening meal.
The broiler production farm that we visited, raise 400,000 chickens per week. Of these, over one-third of the chickens were sold retail to individuals. I wish I would have gotten a picture of it, but we met several trucks that looked similar to older 10 wheel trucks that had high side boards. Inside the bed of the truck were crates which were stacked one upon the other transporting live chickens to go to the market for families to buy.
This farm said that they use about 30% of soymeal in their feed rations for their chickens, and they have a preference for U.S. soymeal because of the amino acid levels. Listen to this interview with Brownfield Ag here.
Everywhere we drove we saw small store fronts along the roadside. All of them had bananas hanging along with other food. We stopped at one storefront and were able to walk around. The store was about the same size as a large master bathroom – very small!
Because many people buy their food daily from these small storefronts, it’s difficult to provide additional food choices. At the facility that we visited that does meat processing they talked about that at the few larger grocery stores in the cities that they actually provide refrigeration for their products.
The second most consumed meat in Ecuador is pork. As recently as 2007, 50% of the pork was raised in backyard production. As someone who was raised on a hog farm, that seems very challenging!
Although we did not see any areas that were high production areas for corn, we were told that Ecuador’s goal is to be self sufficient in corn production. The only corn that we saw were small patches planted near houses in an area the size of a large backyard. That corn was surely hand planted and the plants appears to be a few feet apart, much different than our fields where corn plants are about 6 inches apart!
It was very interesting to see how the Ecuadorians purchase food compared to the U.S. I appreciate my refrigerator and opportunity to grocery shop once per week even more after seeing how they must purchase food. The reality is I could probably go a month (maybe more) without grocery shopping, where many of these folks literally might not eat that night without working for that day’s wages.