Last week, Politico broke the story that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved four plants in China to process chicken for export to the United States. Politico obtained audit reports stating the plants met requirements:
“As all outstanding issues have been resolved, [China] may proceed with certifying a list of poultry processing establishments as meeting [Food Safety and Inspection Service] requirements,” says a letter signed by Andreas Keller, director of international equivalence staff.
The New York Times says that consumers won't be able to identify chicken that's been processed in China:
And because the poultry will be processed, it will not require country-of-origin labeling. Nor will consumers eating chicken noodle soup from a can or chicken nuggets in a fast-food restaurant know if the chicken came from Chinese processing plants.
Other publications have focused on the food safety issues. NPR's blog The Salt highlights some of the recent horror stories:
"That's a pretty disturbing thought for anyone who's followed the slew of stories regarding food safety failures in China in recent years. As we've previously reported on The Salt, this year alone, thousands of dead pigs turned up in the waters of Shanghai, rat meat was passed off as mutton and — perhaps most disconcerting for U.S. consumers — there was an outbreak of the among live fowl in fresh meat markets."
The food safety issue is certainly a serious one. There's an environmental cost as well. One important caveat is that the Chinese factories can only make products with chickens raised and slaughtered in the U.S. or Canada.
That's right. We'll be raising chickens in the Americas, shipping them to China, and then shipping them back.
That's pretty much the antithesis of local food, and yet another reason to cut back on processed food items. I'm sure our vegan and vegetarian readers will point out that the best way to avoid poultry processed in China is by not eating it at all. If we're going to eat chicken, can we just eat chicken that hasn't traveled across the ocean twice to get to our table? Even if it means skipping nuggets.