Woes at Nago slaughterhouse cause pig blood shortage

Pig blood is a key ingredient in a local Okinawan specialty food, called “chi-iricha,” vegetables stir-fried and boiled in pig blood, but a main supplier of the blood is facing problems.

Prefecture sanitation officials have found the Northern Okinawa Meat Industry Cooperative (Nago Meat Processing Center) negligent in following regulations set in laws concerning processing of meat products. As a result prefecture officials stepped in, and through so called “administrative guidance” have banned the center to deliver the blood since Apr. 12th.

To restart the business, the center needs to make major equipment repairs and retrain employees. According to prefecture health inspectors, no date for the restart is in sight. The cooperative is the only supplier of pig blood in the central Okinawa.

The ban has caused many restaurants having to stop serving “chi-iricha” that many in the area consider an important part of their local dietary culture.

The cooperative processed blood from 200 to 300 pigs each week and was found of violating several regulations in the process.

Prefecture inspectors have reportedly given the cooperative notifications of the violations since 2011, but no improvements were made.

An official at the Prefecture Food Safety Office said, “When collecting blood from animals being slaughtered, it is required that the slaughterhouse has a refrigerator, filter system and storage tank reserved exclusively for blood. The cooperative does not have such equipment in the facility. They still have not been able to install a sanitary system in their shop, so there can’t be any sanitary guarantees for the product.”

Officials at the cooperative say that as they can’t afford the cost of refurbishing the facility, and the needed staff, so it seems that they can’t restart delivering pig blood for some time to come.

However, the cooperative wows to stay in the business of providing pig blood. Meat Processing Center Director Mamoru Uehara says, “We will not stop supplying pig blood for local Okinawa food culture, but making required improvements to our facility might force us to raise the price.”

Uehara added that, “There is no restart date in sight. We will retool and invest in order to restart the business as soon as possible. We will also work closely together with the relevant government agencies.”