An interesting tidbit of information crossed my desk which, after reading, I filed away as another one of those “head spinners” that I occasionally have. Yessiree folks, I closed my eyes, shook my head, and asked myself – for real?
According to a report from Politico and confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service China was notified last week that four of its poultry processing plants have been given the green light to begin processing chicken of U.S. origin and selling it back to the American public.
Processed heat-treated/cooked poultry products, typically known as “further processed” chicken, such as nuggets, patties, or even the pieces of chicken in your canned soup may now be processed in China and sent to American consumers for consumption. Raw chicken processed in China may come from the U.S., Canada, or Chile the only three countries currently approved by USDA.
Concerns expressed by food safety advocates abound given China’s record on food safety and deadly bird flu (avian influenza) outbreaks. However this issue appears to go much further. In a press release issued by Food and Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group, Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter says “it has been no secret that China has wanted to export chicken to the U.S. in exchange for reopening its market for beef from the U.S. that has been closed since 2003 due to diagnosis of a cow in Washington State with spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease……”. The U.S., in turn, banned poultry imports from China in 2004 after a bird flu outbreak.
Although the main focus of concerns on this issue has rightly so centered on China’s not so great food safety record, me in my infinite wisdom, focused further on the statement made by Food & Water Watch. My simplistic common sense manner summed it up as trading chicken for beef thereby resolving a “tit for tat” trade dispute.
I then tried to understand why in the world we would send raw chicken all the way to China to have it processed and then have China send it back to us for consumption. I wondered how many miles it was from my closet seaport, Norfolk, VA, to China. Suffice it to say that it’s roughly 6,757 miles! Furthering my need to know, I realized that the one of the major U.S. chicken companies has a processing plant 15 miles away from me. I’m sorry, but this makes no sense in so far as reducing the carbon footprint that we all are supposed to be mindful of!
Back to the heat treated/cooked poultry products. Every major chicken company in the U.S. has “further processing” facilities in America. While I in no way agree with industrial chicken production, I have to wonder why chickens raised and slaughtered in the U.S. would go to China for further processing and travel back to buyers in America to sell as cooked chicken products. In essence that chicken has traveled nearly twice around the world. Not to mention the American jobs that traveled out of the country with it. What does this say for boosting OUR economy?
Adding insult to injury the cooked chicken products coming from China will only have country of origin labeling for the buyer not for the consumer, the end user. This makes it impossible for consumers to choose supporting local or American made.
I understand, and have been told many times, that I need to think globally. Selling raw chicken to China of course will increase chicken production in the U.S. which is destined for export. The next step has China selling that same chicken back to U.S. buyers as a cooked product. I, by no stretch of the imagination, am a wheeler dealer of global trade however the only benefit I see in this global scheme is corporations increasing imports and exports. I see no trickling down effect of profits!
Many predict the approval of cooked chicken products from China as being a precursor to allowing raw chicken from China into the U.S. and that will have me wondering why we would buy chicken from China when we produce more than enough in our own country. Interested consumers will need to ask, which country did this chicken come from?
Increased trade is a good thing, so I’m told!