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U.S. considers chicken-raising in Afghanistan

The U.S. Air Force is playing chicken in Kabul.

The service's Central Command contract office is asking members of the poultry industry whether they have any interest in setting up an integrated chicken-raising business in the Kabul area to supply the Afghan Defense Ministry's dining facilities and nearby commissaries. The aim in any such venture would be to provide the Afghan ministry with a high-protein food source. Up to now, it's been mostly red meat for the ministry, apparently.

A supply of "eggs, chicks, slaughtered pullets (cooled and frozen) as well as live birds" is being
sought, according to the contracting office notice requesting information from interested parties.

Given rising demand for meat in the Kabul area and the resultant fluctuation in prices, particularly of imported steaks and chops, the U.S. military has decided to step in and see if "a poultry operation would offer a sustainable, high protein food source, greater insulation from price fluctuations, a benefit to Ministry of Defense dependents" as well as a "Ministry of Defense model for similar government or civilian operations throughout Afghanistan," according to the notice.

It's an interesting notice, especially because U.S. officials keep emphasizing that the United States is not engaged in nation-building in Afghanistan.

The notice points out that a chicken-raising venture would offer "potential beneficial effects across the Afghan agricultural system through the creation of demand for alternative crops (feed grains), fertilizer production (poultry litter) as well as additional jobs."

Right now, the Air Force is only looking for a conceptual study of the land and facilities required for such a project in the Kabul area, assuming production and slaughter of 5,000 birds a day with the ability to grow to up to 15,000 a day. As a reminder that any enterprise would take place in uniquely Afghan circumstances, the notice emphasizes the need for manual labor and a minimum of machinery. It warns: This "operation should feature the absolute minimum in automation throughout every phase of the final poultry operations!"

While the Defense Ministry may currently have significant refrigeration capacity, the notice raises questions about the daily water requirements for a 15,000-bird operation, the handling of wastewater, as well as disposal of viscera and other non-edible slaughter by products. The notice seeks details on the feasibility of free-range vs. pen-raised birds in the Kabul area. It also asks about veterinary needs.

Perhaps the most intriguing request, however, is for a financial "viability analysis of the business model deemed most feasible by this study."

Does Central Command plan to go into the chicken business, or just plan to sell one off to a U.S. contractor or a local entrepreneur? Whatever the answer, all responses to the Central Command's request for information must be in English, according to the notice.

By Walter Pincus  | October 4, 2010; 2:54 PM ET
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A very commendable undertaking. Pity it was not taken up earlier instead of the invasion.

Posted by: jibsail | October 4, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

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