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U.S. poultry’s round-trip ticket to China

Why did the chicken cross the Pacific? Some wish this was only a prelude to a punchline but reality is there is a legitimate answer to that question.

Recently, four chicken processing plants in China have been given the O.K. by USDA. That means that chicken produced in the U.S. can be shipped to China for processing and then shipped back to the U.S. to be marketed.

“Because all outstanding issues have been resolved, China may proceed with certifying a list of establishments eligible to export processed (heat-treated/cooked) poultry products to the United States, as long as the raw poultry is sourced from countries that FSIS determined to have a poultry slaughter inspection system equivalent to the U.S. system,” the report authors wrote.

This raises a number of questions in my mind, with the first one being “why”? I have never heard of a shortage of processors here in the States. My grocery store seems to always be stocked with all of the wings, legs, thighs and nuggets (for the kids of course) that I could possibly need.

What kind of conundrum will this put on COOL, or Country of Origin Labeling? The new rules set by USDA keep COOL out once the final product arrives back in the U.S. No telling where your cacciatore ingredients may come from in the future.

How might this be handled from a food safety standpoint? That is a long boat ride in a fairly warm climate area and chicken can be finicky about conditions like that, since it doesn’t last for a few hours on my kitchen counter on game day.

“We do have a concern about safety,” National Chicken Council senior vice president Bill Roenigk said in a statement. “But we’ve been assured and reassured by the USDA that they will do 100-percent testing on poultry products from China. We have confidence that the USDA will do that testing and do it in a good and adequate manner.”

The industry publication World Poultry is wondering if this decision would eventually lead to Chinese-bred raw poultry working its way into the U.S. market.

“It is thought … that the government would eventually expand the rules, so that chickens and turkeys bred in China could end up in the American market. Experts suggest that this could be the first step towards allowing China to export its own domestic chickens to the U.S.,” a World Poultry analyst wrote.

Maybe poultry is “taking one for the team” as some industry insiders are suggesting. This ruling could be utilized to loosen up China’s pocketbook for the purchase of a much larger amount of U.S. beef products. I am sure there are many other political reasons that could hold this ruling as a “trump card” should need be.

One thing is for sure, this is not a joking matter. Chicken processed in China may be just as safe, nutritious and delicious as chicken processed here in the U.S., but the idea of outsourcing a meat product overseas is hard for this American to swallow.

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One comment

  1. This bothers me on so many levels. I agree, “Why?” How is this going to be beneficial? I can’t imagine transporting a bunch of chickens halfway around the world and back is cheaper than going down the road.

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