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European edition, Saturday, May 19, 2007

Americans living in Italy have had about a month to see if they prefer the taste of American or Italian chickens.

The six Defense Commissary Agency stores in Italy haven’t sold any fresh chicken since the Italian plant that supplies them suffered severe fire damage in early April. So DECA has increased supplies of frozen Tyson chicken products from the States until another plant meets the approval of U.S. military inspectors.

That inspection could be taking place soon, according to Phil Tegtmeier, a spokesman for the European Regional Medical Command. He said some paperwork needed to be addressed before an inspector could look at another plant.

Gerri Young, a spokeswoman for DECA, said the frozen chicken products have been available at all DECA stores since November 2006, but the six commissaries in Italy — plus the NEXMART in La Maddalena — have been ordering extra supplies lately.

Six Tyson products are sent frozen to Italy, then thawed and put on shelves for a maximum of 11 days.

“It’s as close to a fresh chicken as we can provide in Italy at the moment,” she said.

Young said DECA spent about $60,000 a month purchasing fresh chickens from the Arena Divisione Freschi Co. until a fire halted operations at its plant in Castelplanio in central Italy.

Ron Foster, store manager at Aviano, said customers appear to have taken to the frozen chicken products. Sales of frozen, then cooked Cornish hens — smaller than the fresh chickens the commissary had been selling — have risen dramatically.

“We sold 1,400 in the last month,” he said.

Young said DECA is happy with the contract it has with Arena and is hopeful another one of its plants will soon start supplying fresh chickens to commissary customers.

In the meantime, she said there is a variety of other poultry options throughout the frozen food section.

“We think that no one can go into the commissary and say: ‘There’s no chicken,’” she said.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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