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When pigs fly

These breeder hogs flew Wednesday evening from St. Louis Lambert International Airport to Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo: St. Louis Lambert International Airport)

St. Louis Lambert International Airport celebrated the departure of a special export cargo this week: 200 breeding hogs destined for Sao Paulo.

The hogs were shipped on board an Atlas Air 747-400 freighter on Wednesday from the Midwestern airport to Sao Paulo’s Viracopos International Airport. The shipment marked the airport’s first attempt at conducting a large livestock shipment.

Seven years ago, the St. Louis airport authority began developing its program to transport U.S. livestock shipments throughout the world.

The airport currently operates a 30,000-square-foot, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-approved export inspection facility for livestock shipments. The facility was approved for use by the USDA in May 2019.

The facility allows agriculture shippers the ability to transfer livestock directly from truck to shipping crates to aircraft, or from truck to resting/inspection pens before loading on planes.

About 200 breeder hogs were loaded on board this Atlas Air 747-400 freighter for a flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo: St. Louis Lambert International Airport)

“We are now seeing it pay off,” said Airport Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge in a statement. “We are encouraged by the positive feedback from the operators of this [breeder hog] shipment and we hope it will be just the beginning.”

The planning and preparation for the flight of hogs took a few weeks, but the work involved in routing the shipment through the airport took several months, an airport spokesman said.

Hamm-Niebruegge said St. Louis airport is in discussions with agricultural shippers about handling different types of livestock exports early next year.

Overall, cargo has been a positive business for St. Louis airport during the coronavirus pandemic. Since the beginning of this year, the airport has shipped out more than 28 million pounds of airfreight. Cargo volumes are up at the airport by 20.5% since September 2017.

Click for more FreightWaves/American Shipper articles by Chris Gillis.

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Chris Gillis

Located in the Washington, D.C. area, Chris Gillis primarily reports on regulatory and legislative topics that impact cross-border trade. He joined American Shipper in 1994, shortly after graduating from Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., with a degree in international business and economics.