After a dubious night’s sleep and waking up not knowing day from night and if I should eat or not, (is it breakfast time? is it supper time? I DON’T KNOW!!!) we gathered downstairs for a briefing prior to leaving for our first day in country tour. Agricultural Attaché Ben Petlock and Agricultural specialist Nguyen Thi Huong of the USDA/FAS joined us, and shared that Vietnam is the 8th largest market for US ag products with 13% growth over the past two years. This is the first year they’ve cracked the top ten.
3 billion in mostly aquaculture products go from Vietnam to the US, while we export 3.6 billion to them, mostly forest and fishery products. Food safety and quality are big issues in Vietnam, and US products are known for being high quality. It is important to the Vietnamese government to be seen as being ahead of food safety concerns.
The average age in Vietnam is 30, and their population is growing at the rate of 1 million per year. The population explosion is partially responsible for the addition of another attache in Ho Chi Minh City this summer, thus increasing the US commitment to Vietnam.
As for trade policy, the US normalized trade relations with Vietnam in 1995. At that time, Vietnam was our #91 market. WITHOUT the implementation of any trade agreements, they have become our number 8 customer. (Note this was external to TPP
Soy is the second largest agriculture import for Vietnam! Go Soy! They import soybeans and corn to mix feed rations for the pork industry, which is huge in Vietnam. There are about 230 feed mills in the country, and imports continue to rise as demand for pork increases. Vietnam is currently #5 in the world in pork production.
Our first visit was to CP Technology, where we saw chickens go from truck to shrink-wrapped product in 4 hours. CP is fully integrated and owns 124 farms, employing 638 people. Most of their broilers are 30-45 day birds, and much of their meat goes to KFC for pot pies. They do breasts and leg quarters, and all the rest is made into chicken hot dogs, which are evidently a popular item in this country. The birds are fed 10-15% soy in their rations.
Yes. I had my picture made in front of the Eviscerating Room. It’s a real thing.
CP said they do not have the capacity to meet the large and growing demand for chicken products, even though they process 60,000 birds per day. Leg quarters and thigh meat are preferred, as the Vietnamese prefer dark meat.
After a tour of CP’s pristine feed mill, we were taken out to dinner. Cultural differences permeate every aspect of life, and sometimes they are easiest to see in the food that different cultures enjoy. Note the use of the word different. Not better, not worse, no judgment. Just different that what I’m used to here in the U.S.
I am told that this is a delicacy, and am sure that’s so. Different strokes for different folks, y’all! I must admit that, in this case, I’m happy that this meal was a buffet.