The Kroger Company is the United States' largest supermarket store. We have roughly 1,200 locations across the country, spread out across 20 different states. We acquire and export about one billion pounds of perishable goods each year, with a shelf life ranging from three days to about 45 days for cheese and processed foods. As a result, we have a massive jigsaw puzzle that we are working on every day.
I'm in charge of all areas of meat procurement for all of our kroger ess locations' meat commodities and categories. I am also in charge of all quality assurance procedures as well as distribution to ensure that all of the meat is distributed around the country. What we do at Kroger and what you do with the blood supply have a lot of similarities. I'll give you an example of how we're dealing with some of the logistical, waste, and distribution issues that we're dealing with right now.
We work with the USDA, the FDA, local and state agriculture departments, and local health departments on compliance and safety issues. We are required to follow a set of processes and guidelines. Various health agencies have different guidelines, which is one of the issues we face. We are continuously required to work across all domains. We've even seen situations where the USDA or a federal regulatory committee has one set of standards, but a state or local agency disregards them and imposes its own. There is even some competition or one-upmanship at times. The Kroger Company has built one of the most complete quality assurance programs in the business to combat this and ensure that we are in compliance with all standards and procedures. Each of our marketing departments has a quality assurance team. We continually assess the quality of products arriving at our distribution sites. We also go out to the stores on a regular basis to assess quality parameters, including temperature, shelf life, and germs of all kinds.
We also have a corporate office in Cincinnati that communicates all new rules to the stores by speaking directly with Washington, D.C.
Today, I'd want to focus on our seafood department's distribution and merchandising ideas, which may or may not apply to your company. There is no demand or supply trend, just as there is no demand or supply pattern for your blood supply and blood usage. We can't rely on our supply at any one time because the seafood sector still relies on a hunted species. Furthermore, we never know what our clients may want in our stores. In many ways, though, just like your blood supply, our selling pattern differs greatly.
Another area of comparison is price fluctuation. I recognize that your industry's pricing is not uniform. Similarly, the price of seafood might fluctuate by 10% to 40% in a few of days. It can go up a dollar or two per pound in a matter of days.
The big swing in supply and demand is one of the difficulties we're looking at in the seafood industry. Temperature regulation is another important consideration. It is one of the most crucial aspects of quality and safety management. Our seafood goods must be kept below 35°F, and the colder we can keep them, the longer their shelf life will be and the higher the quality will be. When fresh fish arrives at the docks, it usually has a seven-day shelf life. To assure the quality level, we need to be able to send that product through our entire system while still leaving a couple days for the consumer's refrigerator.
The price of a product fluctuates. We may have set a retail price of $6.99 per pound for sole in our stores. We've virtually lost all of our margin if the market moves the next day and our cost rises. As a result, fluctuation is a significant issue for us. Furthermore, we are attempting to predict what the buyer will purchase. We're having the identical inventory issues as you. We're putting seafood in the case with no idea what will sell that day. Our seafood shops are mostly run for the convenience of the customer.
Our waste in our physical locations can reach 20 to 25 percent at times. That was a crucial issue that needed to be addressed. What can we do to reduce trash in our stores? A new form of distribution network was our solution. For us, distribution is collecting products from Canada, Mexico, the Gulf of Mexico, the Northeast, and South America and distributing them over 1,200 supermarkets in 20 states. That's a logistical nightmare, to say the least. Until recently, we were operating in a similar manner to the Red Cross. At our Greensburg Seafood Distribution Plant, we had a hub. We'd bring all of the products into that distribution center, distribute them to various regional warehouses, and then load them onto another truck and deliver them to the retailers. Before it arrived to the store, we had to cross-truck product four or five times. We've been talking with Emery Air Freight, and they've put together a fantastic software and technology package for us. We'll be able to forward contract with our suppliers in many regions utilizing it. Costs, product specifications, and supplier or inventory delivery will all be negotiated.
Emery will connect to our individual store ordering system via satellite once those talks are concluded. Each merchant will be able to scan a little bar code or a unique number that will indicate, for example, Dover sole. That order will be sent by satellite to Emery, which will act as our hub, and Emery will distribute it among the vendors automatically.
Those vendors will get the merchandise, Emery will organize collection, and Emery will deliver the items directly to our stores. The main benefit of this approach is that we can place an order for a product at 2 p.m. today and have it delivered to our stores by 11:30 a.m. the next day. On all of the items we had running through the system, we were able to minimize float by four days. That is inventory control.
We've saved a lot of money, and our product now has a four-day shelf life right where it needs to be, right in front of the customer.
As a result, we will be able to cut our trash. We estimate that we will cut our waste in half straight away, bringing it down to roughly 5 to 7%. Another significant benefit is that we can provide our customers with the variety they require almost immediately. When a consumer comes in with a specific request, it takes four to five days to fulfill it. It will now take only 24 hours.
That is essentially what we are doing in the distribution network, although I do have a couple of points to make. In many ways, our consumers are similar to your donations. One thing we discovered is that keeping a customer costs a dollar, while bringing a client back costs ten dollars. It's critical to keep that customer, just as it is with your donations, because it will save you money in the long term. Another requirement we place on our retailers is that they treat customers the way you would want to be treated. That makes it easier for us to keep that customer.