Saturday, December 13, 2014

"Globe trotting" chickens-America's new folly!

Though America is known as the biggest beef eating nation, chicken has its own place in the cuisines of people in this country. Naturally chicken consumption goes up with people having more and more disposable income. U S Department of Agriculture (USDA) is supposed to regulate poultry industry and recent spate of safety episodes and unsavory reports about how the poultry farmers are running their show, can only generate a sense of disgust on one side and sympathy for the consumers on the other side. To day the US consumers eat about 18 million tons of chicken annually and the demand for white meat is ever increasing due to better awareness about health and nutrition. This demand has pushed the poultry industry to adopt many unfair, some times dangerous, practices compromising on safety and quality of the environment. The miserable conditions under which birds are raised in the American poultry farms are increasingly being criticized by animal activists and environmentalists and consumers should not be faulted if they have increasingly hostile opinion about them. A recent news report which is confirmed by the USDA speaks about the plans for sending frozen chicken carcass to China for converting into processed products and bringing them back for distribution and sale in the country! What a crazy idea! Knowing the reputation or rather the notoriety of China in the area of food safety, why Americans are taking such a big risk is a mystery. Read further below:. 

According to a report issued by the official website for the USDA and brought to the public through Living Traditionally, four chicken processing plants in China have been given the green light to process U.S.-raised chicken and ship it back to our country for distributive sale in groceries. Also, the processed poultry will not require a country-of-origin label and U.S. inspectors won't be on site at Chinese processing plants. With China's history for the avian influenza and food-borne illnesses, many food health experts are worried. Tom Super, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council, made a recent statement in the Houston Chronicle about the USDA's decision. "Economically, it doesn't make much sense. Think about it: A Chinese company would have to purchase frozen chicken in the U.S., pay to ship it 7,000 miles, unload it, transport it to a processing plant, unpack it, cut it up, process/cook it, freeze it, repack it, transport it back to a port, then ship it another 7,000 miles. I don't know how anyone could make a profit doing that." What Tom Super doesn't take into account is the fact that the USDA is allowing this so U.S. companies could cut cost through outsourcing. To put this all into perspective, American poultry processors are paid roughly $11. In China, the same worker makes significantly less at the USD average of $1 to $2. As a matter of fact, this tactic is already being done for U.S. seafood, specifically domestically-caught Pacific salmon and Dungeness crab, as reported by the Seattle Times. Right now, food safety enthusiasts and news sites are spreading awareness of the pending USDA agreement. They hope to stop the Chinese-processed chicken from ever reaching supermarkets and school lunchrooms. In that regard, do you side with the people whom are concerned, or do you think they're overreacting?

As the report rightly points out it does it make sense for an American chicken to go on a glob trotting exercise before ending up back on the dining tables of the consumers there. America is a country known to subsidize its farmers heavily forking out billions of dollars each year and probably poultry farmers also might be expecting such largess from the government which after all is a captive organization of the industry lobby. But the carbon foot print of these globe trotting chickens because of its long journey can be disastrous to the world and there must be strong reservations that should be expressed by other indignant nations. Even American citizens must boycott these chicken products for which they must insist on putting the "country of origin" on the label of these "China returned" chickens. Probably many informed consumers and consumer activist organizations are gearing up for stopping the deal as they feel it will affect the people at large and school going kids especially. Good luck to them!


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