Tell me if this sounds like a recipe for disaster. According to Chicken.org:
“Chickens are taken directly from the growing farms to the processing plant where they are unloaded from their transport crates or modules, slaughtered, plucked, cleaned, cooled and graded. They are then either packaged and frozen or chilled, or processed further into various products prior to packaging and sale to distributors.” (31)
Call me cynical, but entrusting China, with its deplorable food safety record, (32) to “process” our chicken seems a little less than criminal.
On the other hand, are the Chinese 100% to blame? I guess the nature of processing chickens is either beneath Americans or perhaps too advanced, and will now be done by the Chinese. Why else would we allow this to happen? (I am looking at you corporate greed.)
The fact remains that the US has cleared Chinese companies to process our chicken. Presumably these firms are “stalwarts” with a shining safety record, after all they were chosen for the task, right? But then again, as I mentioned earlier – Sanlu, a Chinese company (33) which knowingly (34) sold poisoned milk (35) for years before being stopped, was held up by the communist party as a stellar Chinese company rife with innovation and safety.
Even though many knew about the deaths, Sanlu was allowed to be one of China’s firms chosen to sponsor the Olympics. And if that is not enough to make your guts crawl, then how about this…
Although Sanlu had been contaminating its milk for years it was awarded the following accolades by the Chinese government (36):
–> Title of China’s most renowned brand, 2007
–> National Science and progress award, 2007
–> Named the “National Brand that had Most Changed Chinese Lives over the past 30 years” – ironically enough this award came in August 2008 during the Olympics, at a time the melamine scandal was in full effect
This being the case, it’s hard for me to trust China bestowing a clean bill of health on any of its companies.
Can’t Our Country Protect Us?
But what about our officials, surely they can protect us, can’t they?
One would like to think so but unfortunately they cannot. The truth is that too many products flood our shores each day. Those in charge of monitoring the goods are overworked, understaffed and expecting them to catch even a fraction of sub-par goods that reach our shores is wishful thinking at best.
This lack of oversight has been one of the reasons the US has declined allowing Chinese meat products onto our shores. (37) We know that import quality control is limited at best and non-existent in most cases. Up until now, this has meant we did not have to fear the food we eat, but times they are a changing.
So where does that leave us?
“…Given Chinese processors’ poor track record with regard to food-safety standards, the USDA should be taking every possible step to ensure that the chicken that ends up on our plates and in our McNuggets is safe,” Schumer (D-NY).
He rattled off a nauseating list of Chinese food scandals, including arsenic found in calamari and rice, pasta infested with maggots, pumpkin seeds mixed with glass chips and rat meat sold as lamb.
“And to top it off, on-site US inspectors will not be required at these sites so there is simply no guarantee that food safety laws are up to United States standards…” Schumer said.
We can be sure that firms in China have been cleared to handle and process chicken meat we send them, but little else. Due to Chinese regulations and staff shortages, we have no way of verifying the quality of all the meat they send us; we cannot even prove that the meat we are shipped back is the same that we gave them in the first place.
Nonetheless, Chinese firms have been cleared to handle our foul. This being the case, we will have no clue under what condition our meat was handled or worse yet, if the chicken we send China will be the same stuff we get back.
The Issues with Chinese Chicken
Perhaps I should explain.
Think of it like this, we will be entrusting virgin foul from the heartland to a country where animals graze on despoiled land. Imagine how much money a Chinese company could get for some good “imported American chicken”. All they would have to do is substitute a little of our meat for theirs and who would be the wiser?
The business model would be something like this. Chinese firms could take quality American meat and sell it in China at a premium, after all, it is American bred and grown. They could then turn around and send back sub-par Chinese meat in its place or even mix in a bit of their lower quality bird with ours. For them its a win-win-win.
Win #1 – China gets to employ workers in poultry plants
Win #2 – China benefits from quality US product
Win #3 – China sells sub-par chicken back to the US at a profit
And before you roll your eyes at the thought, consider the following.
Many Chinese are in the business of making money, whatever it takes. They see the communist leaders making money hand over fist, and the little guy is left with nothing. As a result, many businesses eschew both laws and morals if they can get away with it.
Listen up because here is a quick course in “China Business 101″. A few years ago, a Chinese firm had a great idea to capitalize on the demand for wine in the country. Buoyed by an influx of dollars, Chinese began to get a taste for the finer things in life, wine being one of them. The company set out to capitalize on this demand and began to “import wine”, or so they said.
The reality was that the company merely bought empty bottles of foreign wines. The plan was simple and at the same time incredible. What they did was to purchase used wine bottles and then loaded them onto Chinese ships. These ships then took off and set out to sea, then raced back to China. In the interim, the Chinese crew cleaned the bottles and filled them to the brim with cheap Chinese wine. Upon landing, the company claimed its product a foreign import and sold the “finest wine in the land”.
Another Chinese company named Davinci (38) had a similar idea. They sold “imported Italian furniture” costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. The catch – yes the products were imported, but not from Italy but Guangdong, a Chinese province. Davinci had allegedly used Chinese leather and labor and sent finished product out on boats which then jaunted to Shanghai, claiming the product to be an import.
“Davinci has been accused of selling, together with original pieces, other fake products sold under the label of a popular Italian high end brand. The trickery was made possible by transporting the fake furniture, manufactured in the Guandong province, through the Shanghai’s Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone. Here this could be labeled as ‘imported’ and immediately sent to Davinci’s warehouse in the Qingpu District (Shanghai), ready to be dispatched and sold as a ‘Made in Italy’ product.” (39)
These are merely two examples of Chinese scams, but the list is never ending. The take away from this is that when in China you have to think like the Chinese, and simply put, many of them do not trust their own companies, so why should we?
Cheat or Be Cheated Philosophy
In a nutshell, the following Chinese saying shows their attitude on business ethics:
If you do not cheat, you will be cheated. Incidentally, Chinese firms have recently been caught mixing rotten fruit into fruit drinks and selling the “fresh” beverages.
Another problem with the whole notion of China handling our meat, is that in many cases it will be hard for us to know if the “chicken” we are eating was ever touched by the Chinese. This is due to labeling laws. (40) Chicken that is repackaged into nuggets or wings would not necessarily state that fact. (41)
In light of full disclosure, I have never worked in the food packaging industry and have no first-hand experience to draw upon. All supposition on my part is merely based on my experience in China and things I have been witness to. I have no way of knowing about the quality of Chinese poultry processing, nor governmental oversight.
Many US firms could call my claims groundless or an instance of China bashing, but you be the judge. (42) (43)
As of the writing of this article, it would appear that “Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN), the largest U.S. meat processor, chicken producer Sanderson Farms Inc. (SAFM), and McDonald’s Corp. (MCD), the world’s largest restaurant chain, are among companies that don’t plan to import processed chicken from China, according to company officials.” (44)
The next time you want to “get your grub on”, you may wish to consider products processed, made and sold by these firms.
References & Image Credits:
See Part I of this article for additional resources
(32) New York Post
(34) NUS Singapore University
(36) Asia Pacific
(37) CBS News
(38) Davinci Scandal
(43) CBS News
(45) fishermansdaughter via photopin cc
(46) Plonq via photopin cc
(47) jazzijava via Compfight cc