Chickety China, the Chinese chicken

Image Gallery FPD Top Stories, Jan. 2015
The critics maintain we cannot trust China, so let's take a look back.

“Chickety China, the Chinese chicken. You have a drum stick and your brain stops tickin’ “

This is a quoted from the song One Week, sang by the Canadian rock group Bare Naked Ladies. The song was #1 in the US for a while and was part of an album titled Stunt released in 1998.

In very recent weeks the topics of chicken sales with China, both imports and exports, have led many of the daily electronic news sites, and the response, to say the very least, has been extensive.

It seems many really think our brains will “stop tickin’” if we eat cooked, non-shelf-stable chicken products from China.

On Nov. 8, to be exact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published its final rule that will go into effect in 30 days and allow China to export the cooked product to the U.S.

One of the responders to another electronic ag news site stated: “I can guarantee you that Trump does not know about this.”

Another said that Costco will make more money on their rotisserie chicken.

Others remind us that pet food from China killed some puppies in the U.S.

True, but not germane to this conversation. Pet foods fall under the regulation of the Food & Drug Administration with no inspection at the import sites.

In fact, pet food from China can be flown into any airport in the U.S. while imported meat and poultry from any country can only be shipped into limited ports of entry, and all shipments are inspected by the Food Safety & Inspection System (FSIS) inspectors.

Many decry any effort to allow China to export poultry to the U.S., but they totally ignore that our system relies on annual audits and inspection of all imports for residues, species identification and proper temperature control.

To bluntly refuse to consider any country’s request to undergo an audit (or several) and export to us flies in the face of the World Trade Organization and its policies that we ask them to enforce when a country refuses to import our products.

Talk about two-faced hypocrites.

FSIS has done their audits and are assured that the Chinese poultry inspection system in a few large plants is equivalent to the U.S. inspection system.

But this is not new news as some believe it to be. 

In the early 2000s China asked to be allowed to export cooked chicken products to the U.S.

Japan and the EU were already happy and satisfied customers of China, and we all know how difficult it is to export our agriculture products to these countries.

As far as I know very little hormone-free U.S. beef goes to the EU, maybe no chicken, and Japan insisted on beef only from 24 months and younger steers as opposed to the standard of 30 months and under as a mad cow (CJD) prevention policy. 

But they willingly eat Chinese chicken.

So back to the history lesson for those who might care to know the whole story, as opposed to those responding to the news and blogs about Chinese chicken.

After China applied, FSIS went over and audited its system. Just a few plants that would export were inspected.

The visits also included trips and paperwork review for their inspection system and their public health labs that did pathogen testing.

If I remember correctly, three trips were made; the first two resulting in recommendations (requirements) that a few things be tweaked. The third confirmed they had been.

FSIS published a final rule that would allow China to export cooked chicken to the U.S. in April of 2006. By that time I had accompanied FSIS team members and toured some plants myself.

And I assure you that then President Bush did “know about this” as does President Trump today. The Chinese presidents have had many conversations with our presidents about our delaying tactics.

One of those delaying tactics was a provision attached to Section 747 of the House Ag Appropriations Bill by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.) in 2006 that stated: “None of the funds made available in this act may be used to implement the final rule….”

The final rule being the one referenced above in 2006.

The same language was repeated in every ag appropriations bill for years and the shipping lanes for Chinese chicken were essentially closed.

In retaliation for our feet dragging by the U.S. to import Chinese chicken, China banned all poultry exports from the U.S. to their mainland in 2015.

Now, with the Nov. 8, announcement (all announcements that are controversial are made on Fridays in D.C.) that the final rule is published, China announced Nov. 14 that the U.S. can once again begin shipping poultry products to them.

The poultry associations and the U.S. Trade Representative estimate that this may be a billion dollars of business in chicken paws alone, with maybe another billion or so in chicken meat to help ease the protein shortage in China brought about by African swine fever.

Since we do not eat paws in this country, this is almost pure profit for the industry.

And before someone yells foul (or fowl) about economic incentives, I can assure you that did not enter our collective minds when we published that rule way back in 2006.

The critics maintain we cannot trust China, but we trusted Jensen Farms, the Peanut Corporation of America, Wright Egg Farms, the Romaine industry and others that have had issues. We are not perfect and to claim so is either ignorance or arrogance.


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