Constituent Update - Special Alert, December 27, 2013
Roaster Definition Update
On Nov. 3, 2011, FSIS amended the definitions and standards for the official U.S. classes of poultry so that they more accurately and clearly describe the characteristics of poultry in the market today (76 FR 68058). Genetic improvements and poultry management techniques have reduced the grow-out period for some poultry classes that resulted in a need for FSIS to amend its standards to more accurately reflect poultry being marketed to consumers. The new standards will become effective Jan. 1, 2014.
On Nov.18, 2013, the National Chicken Council (NCC) submitted a petition at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/adf54579-7a18-4ab2-a9b5-88f1eef65332/Petition-National-Chicken-Council.pdf?MOD=AJPERES requesting that FSIS amend its regulations for the definition and standard of identity for the “roaster” chicken class that is scheduled to become effective on Jan. 1, 2014. According to the petition, the new “roaster” standard will result in companies being unable to market certain chickens as “roasters” because of the minimum age requirement. The new definition states that a “roaster” is a young chicken between 8 and 12 weeks of age with a ready-to-cook (RTC) carcass weight of 5 pounds or more, that is tender-meated with soft, pliable, smooth-textured skin and breastbone cartilage that is somewhat less flexible than that of a broiler or fryer. The NCC asserts that improvements in breeding and poultry management techniques that have continued since FSIS published the November 2013, final rule have enabled producers to now raise chickens with the weight and other characteristics of roasters in under 8 weeks. In addition to requesting that FSIS amend the new “roaster” standard, the NCC has requested that the agency suspend the effective date for the roaster definition until the agency is able to amend the regulations. NCC submitted additional data on Dec.16, 2013, in support of their petition.
FSIS, in consultation with USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), conducted a preliminary review of the petition and supporting data and found that data show that there are chickens less than 8 weeks of age with a RTC carcass weight of 5 pounds or more and other physical characteristics of a roaster. The age of these birds falls within the age range for “broilers,” (i.e., under 10 weeks), but these birds have the size and other physical attributes of roasters. Based on these findings, FSIS and AMS agree that there is a need to address this gap in the regulations. Therefore, until it completes its evaluation of the petition, FSIS will allow chickens younger than 8 weeks of age to be labeled and marketed as “roasters” after the new poultry class standards go into effect, provided that these birds meet all of the other characteristics of a roaster in the standard, i.e., a ready to cook carcass weight of 5 pounds or more, tender-meated with soft, pliable, smooth-textured skin that is somewhat less flexible than that of a broiler or fryer. FSIS intends to publish a document in the Federal Register in the near future proposing to appropriately revise the definition of a roaster or reaffirming the definition that it established in November 2011.