Friday, August 22, 2008
We live just twenty minutes away from Canada and make frequent border crossings. These days you must show either your passport or 2 forms of identification such as a birth certificate and driver's license. U.S. citizens returning from Canada are permitted to bring $200 worth of merchandise back into the country, but there are restrictions regarding food products. No fruit, vegetables, plants or meat is permitted into the U.S. unless you have the proper importation paperwork. Your average individual or family crossing would not have this. There are signs at each inspection booth which state that these goods must be declared.
Some years back, pre 2004, we used to host a summer's end pig roast for our friends and neighbors. We had a relative in Canada who would supply us with the dressed pig and we had only to pick it up and bring it back into the States.
The first year we had no problem bringing the whole pig over in our van.
The second year my son was pulled over for a secondary inspection when he declared the pig. Apparently the officer would not recognize the Canadian equivalent of our FDA Inspection stamp. My son protested that the Canadian inspection is just as stringent as the American (saying something along the lines that Canadians don't eat rotten pork) but he was directed to the Customs office anyway. He was waiting his turn when one of the officers behind the counter called to him,
"Hey, Will! What are doing in here?"
"I've got a pig for a pig roast in my truck.
"Wow! How are you gonna cook that pig?"
"We fire up this humongous smoker in the middle of the night and when the wood and charcoal is just right we put the pig on the grill and smoke her for about 12 hours."
"Man that sounds good. So why are you in here?"
Your agent doesn't think the Canadian inspection stamp is good enough to allow the pork into the states."
(poignant pause....looks exchanged)
"Well it looks okay to me."
And Will left with the pig, relieved but a little befuddled since he had absolutely no idea how the Customs agent knew him!
The following year we determined that the pig would be broght over in two halves. Apparently the inspection restrictions are different for a half quantity of pig as opposed to a whole pig. But before we would actually be importing the pig, I thought I would inquire at the customs booth as we made a "normal" crossing, just to be sure we had all of our t's crossed and i's dotted.
"We're planning on importing half a pig next weekend for a pig roast. Is there anything special required of us to bring it over?"
The customs agent asked, "Is the pig dead or alive?"
I swear I kept a straight face.
"Our half is dead."
He looked a little rattled but he responded, "Well, then it should be okay."
Yep, keeping our borders safe.