U.S. Balks At Prospect Of Imported Chinese Chickens

China is itching to sell their processed chickens directly to the U.S. market, an idea that doesn’t exactly thrill our regulators or representatives. Congress banned the import of processed Chinese chickens in 2007, ruffling Beijing’s feathers to the point where they’re now considering a retaliatory ban on U.S. chickens. Since we’re in a recession and Congress doesn’t want domestic chicken exporters to lose over a half-billion dollars next year, they may let the Chinese chickens come here to roost.

[James H. Sumner, president of the Georgia-based USA Poultry & Egg Export Council] says the potential ban appears to be tied to a provision in the most recent U.S. spending bill that prohibits the USDA from allowing Chinese chicken plants to send poultry products to the U.S. Lawmakers question whether China’s chicken processing plants meet U.S. standards.

A ban on U.S. chicken would be the latest example of food safety and trade colliding. In recent months the U.S. has been under pressure from lawmakers and trade groups to crack down on goods coming from China. China has responded with allegations of U.S. protectionism.

The potential ban could be a big blow to the U.S. chicken industry, which has been struggling with high grain prices and a price-depressing oversupply of chicken. Exports had been a bright spot for the industry, and last year China surpassed Russia as the largest destination for U.S. chicken, according to the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

The House’s position is clear: they don’t want the U.S. importing chickens processed in China. The Senate’s version of the Agriculture appropriations bill would allow imports if the U.S.D.A. audits the Chinese factories and certifies that they meet U.S. standards, because inspection and certification has a long and successful track record of working in China.

The issue will be resolved in conference, but for the moment, we’ll just be glad that Congress gave us country-of-origin labeling.

Senate, House differ on China chicken ban [The Hill]
China Is Expected to Block Imports of Chicken From U.S. [The Wall Street Journal]
(Photo: dooleymtv)


Edit Your Comment

  1. AreYouConfusedYet?HowAboutNow? says:

    I’m fine with any Chinese chicken as long as it’s name is Chickety China.

    /I’m sorry.

  2. Sidecutter says:

    Um. So we don’t want to import Chinese chickens, but they want to sell them to us. This indicates there is a market for their chicken here, or at least they seem to think there’s room for their chicken in the market.

    Meanwhile, our own chicken producers want to export to China, and are afraid of losing a lot of money not being able to.

    If there’s room in the market for more chickens here then, why don’t we just…eat our own chickens? Then we don’t HAVE to export them, lose money by not exporting them, OR import China’s chickens.

    Regardless, sooner or later we have to start being a little more hard-line about denyin this stuff inspite of threats from China not to buy OUR stuff. They aren’t going to improve their standards and practices without incentive, and we’re not giving them one by refusing to buy their junk.

    • Raekwon says:

      @Sidecutter: We sell China the actual chickens, unprocessed. They want to sell us processed chickens. They can process them much cheaper than we can here. The two products are not the same.

      • mrbenning says:

        @Raekwon: It seems to me that the cost-differential could be worked out if they would employ locals to process their own chickens. Employing the consumers they’re targeting means more money in the pool for their business to grow – even if it does mean we have to suck it up and pay ten cents more for processed chicken.

        • bobcatred says:

          @mrbenning: Keeping jobs in the U.S. always sounds nice in theory, except these are the sorts of jobs that end up getting filled by immigrants and illegal aliens, because they can’t get “good hardworking Americans” to work their asses off for minimum wage. We tend to think we’re too good for that sort of work, and that mindset gets even worse with every step up the educational ladder we take (i.e. a college grad is way less likely to be willing to take a job like this than someone who didn’t graduate high school, etc.)

    • K-Bo says:

      @Sidecutter: lol, if you have never listened to Brian Regan’s Log Trucks bit, you really should, because you pretty much just recreated it for chickens.

    • Sheogorath says:


      I think the problem will be the fact that the Chinese are probably going to pad their chickens weight. With lead.

    • DaveDidNotPay says:


      Sooner or later we need to decide which of the two is more important:

      1. money

      2. our standards

    • bohemian says:

      @Sidecutter: If they approve this I will start buying all my chicken from the Hutterites. That will mean I will also swear off eating chicken in any processed form.
      US chicken is rather a mess, I don’t even want to find out what the quality of Chinese chicken will be.

    • Nogard13 says:

      @Sidecutter: There is a difference in the parts of the chicken that are purchased the most.

      The US buys mostly breasts (there is a huge white meat conspiracy here) while the Chinese eat the dark meat (legs, thighs, and even feet). They have an overabundance of chicken breasts, which is what they want to ship to the US. The US imports chickens to keep up with the demand for chicken breasts in this country.


  3. 3DaysTillTheState_GitEmSteveDave says:

    So besides the possible swine/bird flu concerns, could feeding the birds the cheaper and possibly tainted grain/feed in China affect us health wise?

    • krista says:

      @2DaysTillTheState_GitEmSteveDave: You don’t need to worry about swine or bird flu from eating chicken (or pig) meat, but the feed and/or processing could definitely cause health problems. In our country, with our higher standards, chicken are already fed some very questionable things.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      @2DaysTillTheState_GitEmSteveDave: I’ve heard that many pathogens, as well as melamine and off-flavors, can be overcome by a soy-ginger marinade, breading & deep frying, and aggressive sweet-and-sour saucing.

  4. starrion says:

    And once the audit is done and the inspectors go home, so do the proceses that cost anything more than $zero.

    Haven’t we had to put up with enough poison already? We haven’t even cleaned up the industrial waste that China turned into drywall and ruined tens of thousands of homes with.

    Now we will have to check the meals out and the packages at the supermarket for the Skull and crossbones AKA “made in china”.

    • Shoelace says:

      @starrion: Lead, poison toothpaste, melamine to boost measured protein content in milk products given to babies – and people got sick and died.

      I’d drink a Jim Jones brand Kool-Aid mix before I’d (knowingly) eat a Chinese-processed chicken. And I can’t understand how it would save that much money if the chickens need to be safely shipped, alive or dead, halfway around the world. Refrigeration? Feeding? Disposal of chickenshit?

      “In recent months the U.S. has been under pressure from lawmakers and trade groups to crack down on goods coming from China. China has responded with allegations of U.S. protectionism.” I think the US, if it wants to, can easily tell the Chinese government to shove their ‘protectionism’ whining up their asses using examples like the ones above.

    • bohemian says:

      @starrion: Forcing the grocery stores to declare the country of origin on all meat was the best thing done in years.

      I noticed the local Hyvee quit carrying meat and seafood from questionable countries now that they have to display it “loud and proud”. It also makes shopping easier.

      • sonneillon says:

        @bohemian: The only problem is that according the the COOL act they can say that questionable seafood from China came from Miami because that’s where it docked.

  5. Chase Teschendorf says:

    I have no problem importing Chinese Chickens! I do however think it should be a crime to Buy, Sell, Consume, or Touch Chickens from countries without adequate food safety.

  6. kateblack says:

    I don’t know what people are worried about. Melamine tastes GREAT with McNuggets.

  7. I Love New Jersey says:

    The only time I would consider any food from China would be if I was trying to kill myself.

  8. Megalomania says:

    How about we let them sell us their chicken when they fix the last batch of deadly products they sold us.

  9. Radi0logy says:

    I don’t really understand this. If we already make enough chicken here to export to China, why would we even need to buy chicken from them? And if China has enough chicken to export to us, why do they import our chicken?? My brain hurts.

    • risottto says:


      Because China can sell their chickens for more here then at home.

      • TurboWagon00 says:

        @risottto: but then who in China is buying expensive American chicken ? Do you see the conundrum ?

        • taking_this_easy says:

          @TurboWagon00: rich chinese people/US expats who don’t trust chinese chickens and are willing to pay the premium for something that isn’t soaked with antibiotic/chemicals, though it’s not like some USA chickens are soaked with chemicals too

          • Radi0logy says:

            @taking_this_easy: You’re saying that there are enough rich chinese people and expats that ALSO don’t trust Chinese chickens enough to account for half a billion dollars of imported chicken every year??? I don’t believe that for one second!

            • Raekwon says:

              @Radi0logy: We sell them chickens. They process them and sell some back to us. That is what I believe this is discussing.

            • Trai_Dep says:

              @Radi0logy: It’s easy to get to large numbers quickly when the multiple is 1.3 billion and the term is one year.

              • Radi0logy says:

                @Trai_Dep: I’ve been to China. I promise you, there isn’t anywhere close to 1.3 billion people in China that can afford to eat “American chickens”

                Although KFC sells like gangbusters, I’ll give them that.

                • Trai_Dep says:

                  @Radi0logy: As have I (well, HK, and all over SE Asia).
                  There’s money there – even if it’s concentrated in the hands of a few (hey: just like us! (Thanks, Reaganomics!)). But 1.3B is still a large number, even if it’s 3% of 1.3B, over a year.

          • bohemian says:

            @taking_this_easy: So the lower classes in both countries lose so the upper classes can have edible food and massive profits. Nice.
            Back to your cubicles serfs!

    • usa_gatekeeper says:

      @Radi0logy: Thank you! Well put. Simple. Too simple for Congress to comprehend.

    • bravohotel01 says:

      Radi0logy said, “If we already make enough chicken here to export to China ~.”

      Point of order: we *BUILD* chickens here; we don’t make them.

      Thank you.

  10. Liam Kinkaid says:

    Oh, no! Not the City Chicken!

  11. henrygates says:

    So we’re allowing the import of chickens from China so we can still export our chickens to China?

  12. starrion says:

    Yes. Which the chinese will sell at a fraction of the price because the chickens are fed low-grade cheap feed contiminated with God-know-what instead of inspected feed grain (as it is here in the states). Then they’ll slaughter them and pump them full of excess water to increase the weight, then flash freeze them.
    Finally- off to Wal-Mart’s all over the US, where they can sell it for $0.99 a lb.

    And people will buy it and poison themselves.

    First they poisoned the pets.
    Then they poisoned the kids.
    They built wallboard of poisonous waste for our homes.
    Now they’re out to poison our dinner.

    • twophrasebark says:

      What’s wrong with feeding chickens radioactive drywall?

      You are being very ethnocentric, my friend. Now excuse me while I go eat Burger King’s new glow-in-the-dark chicken nuggets.

    • Rugbydan says:

      @starrion: Hear hear. I’m sick and tired of hearing these stories about toxic and dangerous products coming from China.

      We should ban imports of ALL foreign goods from any country without proper safety procedures that can be verified by U.S. inspectors.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @Rugbydan: Err, Europe’s standards exceed our to embarrassing extents. I’d suspect Canada’s do as well (Canucks, feel free to jump in!) It’d wager Latin America’s a wash, but comparable. Add SE Asia to this bin as well.
        The PRC seems a leader in the Let’s Poison The World While Snickering and Shrugging area.

        • Rugbydan says:

          @Trai_Dep: Do you have any info at all to back that statement up?

          • Rugbydan says:

            @Rugbydan: Besides the last sentence which I totally agree with.

          • Trai_Dep says:

            @Rugbydan: I’d like to be the first person to welcome you wholeheartedly to Consumerist. Stay a while. While here, I invite you to click the Chinese Poison Train link, above.
            You may optionally also take the time to ponder why such a link might exist, or indeed, why Consumerist editors came up with such a droll phrase.
            Extra credit: try searching on “European Poison Train”, “Vietnamese Poison Cyclo”, “Canadian Poison Iditarod” and similar terms. G’head, we’ll wait.
            Done? Good. It’s now your job to cite references that run counter to common sense and recent history. We look forward to your conscientious efforts.

            • Kevin Wolf says:

              @Trai_Dep: There’s no American Poison Train either, so I suspect the remark you made about our lower standards may be a bit off. I do know for a fact that Europe and other parts of the world are not immune to importing poisonous Chinese products.

            • Rugbydan says:

              @Trai_Dep: You still have not told me where you got your info regarding the apparent superiority of the European and Canadian consumer safety regulations.

              But maybe I couldn’t hear you buried under this massive pile of smugness that you dropped on me.

              • Trai_Dep says:

                @Rugbydan: Yup. I’m smug when the burden of proof is so far heavily weighted against you. You need to show us cites when positing opinions that veer so far off course.
                Let alone trying to place European and Canadian imports in the same Basket of Fail as the PRC.
                @Kevin Wolf: Which only furthers my point that China is a big swarming Ball ‘o Fail, right?

                • Rugbydan says:

                  @Trai_Dep: Just because you say the burden of proof lies on me doesn’t make it true.

                  When you say that Europe, Canada, and Latin America have better consumer safety regulations than America, and I ask you to prove that, the burden of proof lies on you, the guy making sweeping statements.

                  I didn’t actually make a statement, I just asked you to clarify why you think what you said is irrefutably right. Hell, I don’t mind being wrong, but being insufferable in the absence of any supporting information makes you not only wrong, but condensing and wrong.

                  • Rugbydan says:

                    @Rugbydan: And, to clarify, I’m not putting Europe and Canada on the lines of the PRC, which is insane to think.

                    I’m asking why you think their standards are higher than the US.

        • The Black Bird says:

          @Trai_Dep: You pretty much said it all.

          It boggles my mind that this country continues to allow China to send it poisonous products to us with everything that has happened in the last few years. I am hoping that the present administration will, at some point, put a stop to it.

      • Shoelace says:

        @Rugbydan: I think we’d need bribe-proof US inspectors there all the time. And if by some chance there were bribe-proof ones, I don’t think they’d last long.

        • bohemian says:

          @Shoelace: There is nothing we NEED from China. Outside of clothes and electronics we should be able to either make or buy from a country with a reliable supply chain. We could probably do the same with clothes and electronics with enough support.

    • cerbie says:

      @starrion: wait, isn’t that what we do to chickens in the US? Why yes, it is, just without the China bit. I don’t even want to think of how much worse China could make it.

  13. Trai_Dep says:

    This pretty much lays out the hostile relationship that US meat packing conglomerates have towards their consumer-victims. They lobby to allow substandard, probably toxic produce to be injected into the US food supply in spite of repeated cases of it turning out badly for Americans. So long as their export markets aren’t curtailed.
    I suppose they got tired of poisoning their own populace (remember the days, only a decade or so ago when we could eat medium-rare meat without risking illness? Sigh…), and are eager to see how tough the Chinese digestive systems are.

    On the bright side, Wal-Mart must be skipping in their corporate hallways in anticipation of off-shoring yet more American jobs overseas. It’s nice to see somebody’s happy about this.

  14. Swearengen says:

    I never understand this. If China is the second biggest buyer of U.S. chickens, this means that China has a big need for chickens, yet the Chinese have enough of their own chickens to sell back to us? Why don’t they just buy their own chickens?

    And its all well and good to say that Chinese processing plants will be monitored, but we all know that they will not be. The U.S. does not have the human resources necessary to examine all the pharmaceutical plants in china, let alone look at food processing. If we are looking to poison our people, then by all means, let the Chinese chickens in.

    • Corporate_guy says:

      Why @TancredoHelmer: Yea, it makes no sense. The only explanation is that the people in China don’t trust their own chicken and purposely avoid it and pay more for US chicken. Which means it would be stupid for us to buy their chicken.

      And if feed is cheaper in china, it makes sense just to ship in feed from china and raise the chickens here.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @Corporate_guy: Another layer of irony is that Chinese consumers are too smart to opt for Chinese-raised chicken when they can at all avoid it.
        Whilst Wal-Mart shoppers hurtle thru the warning signs, heedless.

  15. my secret identity says:

    That picture is just hilarious.

  16. DoodlestheGreat says:

    I have to agree with the sentiment that it’s better to eat our own damned chickens than the Chinese ones. What the hell is wrong with that half a bil in chickens that makes it necessary to sell them to China?

  17. krom says:

    The news about meat just gets better and better. Chinese Swine Flu Chicken Nuggets — It’s What’s For Dinner!

  18. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    from the first link: “The rule would allow processed chicken imports from China so long as the chicken originally came from either the U.S. or Canada.”

    ok so this would permit US chicken farmers to send chicken to china to be cooked and processed and then sent back to us to eat?

    i can’t see how international shipping of frozen chicken carcasses could possibly be better for the economy than processing them inside the US and providing jobs here, as well as the chicken being a lot … fresher? when it gets to the grocery freezer or canned meat or soup shelf?

    sure, maybe we’d need to build new processing plants here… ALSO providing domestic employment

    outsourcing our food just seems irresponsible to me

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      @catastrophegirl – just add kittens: oops! sorry – looks like it would involve shipping LIVE chickens to china [wouldn’t that cost MORE?] : “on-site review of slaughter and processing facilities,”

    • ShadowFalls says:

      @catastrophegirl – just add kittens:

      I don’t see how they are going to be able to tell what originally came from China and what didn’t. From how I see it, they could easily start mixing their own in. That is how all the problems start, people trying to pad their bottom line by selling their contaminated product.

  19. Adrienne Willis says:

    @undefined: Gonna find the kind with tiny nubs just so my irons arent always flying off the back-swing

  20. Kimberly Gist-Collins says:

    The filth and crap that US chickens are processed in are bad enough. I would fear for my safety fo shizzle if China was allowed to import chicken here. I can control what i buy at the store, but what about if restaurants serve it? we would have no way of knowing.

  21. catnapped says:

    Hey! You whiny people will eat your lethal chicken and YOU’LL LIKE IT!!!!! OR ELSE!!!!!!!

  22. Snarkysnake says:

    Now just a damn minute here. I live in an area that has a lot of poultry processing plants.Seaboard Farms, Pilgrims Pride ,Tyson. You know who works in those plants ? Illegals,thats who. They make jack shit while the companies that employ them treat them worse than they treat their machinery. Just how much cheaper could it be to have the stuff processed in PRC ,shipped and sold here ? This would seem to be one of those “law of gravity doesn’t apply here” situations. So what piece of the puzzle is missing here ?

    Hmm. Could it be that these companies will adopt a “hear no evil,see no evil” policy that will allow them to look the other way when the filth and unsanitary practices are exposed ? Then they can issue a sanctimonious press release that tells us that they are “taking it seriously”. Then they can deny responsibility by blaming it all on a “rogue manager” that didn’t follow company policy.

    We are going to be screwed and poisoned if we start importing meat (meat,for God’s sake !)from a third world shithole like China.

  23. FrankReality says:

    Just keep buying those USA raised and processed, Minnesota “Gold’n Plump” chickens and avoid the Chinese crap.

    Why do I suspect that there may be some Tyson and other big chicken company lobbyists behind this?

    Suppose they “farm” out their chicken processing to China, resell the processed product here in the US. China does it cheaper (lower labor costs, lower safety and enviromental standards) saving the company money and raising their profits.

  24. Caggeyder says:

    I think this would be a great opportunity to look around and see what is offered locally. It would seem to me that spending a little bit more for a farm raised chicken that was raised in the local area is much better than some poor thing that was raised in a giant factory farm where it was shipped halfway across the world, killed, processed and shipped all the way back to the US. That could taken weeks, even months to get there and back again. Would it not be more safe and healthy to buy local, not to mention investing in farmers around your area. I bet if more and more people started doing this, giant factory farms would take more notice and start actually caring what is happening to their product.

  25. boxjockey68 says:

    Wow, so…..god, I am not even sure what to say here, I know several people (myself included) who still have scars from Chinese crap…and now they wanna bring over FOOD? I mean, REALLY? Yea, wow. I have a 5 year old that I will not feed “food” from China.
    that entire deal just seems retarded to me, and a bit offensive.

  26. Shannon J. Hughes says:

    Has our government learned nothing from lead poisoned toys sent to our market, and melamine contaminated milk products that never even got the chance to leave China? The Chinese market lacks the checks and balances that are truly needed for consumer safety. Greed is able to prevail over good conscience.

  27. kabuk1 says:

    I am in shock that anyone could possibly think that importing ANYTHING EDIBLE from china is anything but a terrible, horrible, no-good, bad idea. Is this some thinly veiled attempt at ‘thinning the herd’ over here? cause I don’t even wanna think about how many people will die if we start importing chinese chicken. The chinese have already proven they cannot handle something so simple as making drywall without it coming out TOXIC, and we’re gonna trust them with our FOOD? Nah!!!

    That’s it, I’m going vegetarian. Fuck this shit.

  28. meechybee says:

    Obviously, China would do well to focus on feeding their own people. The only motive to shipping a lowly chicken half-way around the world to the US is greed.

  29. Adrienne Willis says:

    @undefined: i have a history of taking off my shirt

  30. Saboth says:

    At least with Chinese chicken, you will get your USDA recommended dosage of mercury, arsenic and lead in one place.

  31. suburbancowboy says:

    It’s amazing to me that it is cheaper to grow food across the ocean, and ship it than it is to domestically.

    We shouldn’t be buying ANYTHING from China. Especially food.

    China is taking us over without ever firing a shot.

  32. Adrienne Willis says:

    @undefined: i love group sing alongs, they do it in movies so why not real life right folks? :-)

  33. SacraBos says:

    Take the loss. Don’t cave into the political pressure. They won’t want to walk away from half a billion either (they likely reprocess and resell our chicken). If they could do without our chicken, they would.

    They are basically playing a political game of… well… chicken with us.

  34. Urgleglurk says:

    Only if they are labeled as being imported from China so I can avoid them. I don’t trust ANYTHING from China right now. Granted, it’s almost impossible to avoid “Made in China” merchandise, but I try.

  35. vladthepaler says:

    This makes no sense. We’re shipping chickens to China and China wants to ship chickens to us? How about we eat our chickens, China eats Chinese chickens, and we save all the cost of transporting chickens back and forth?

  36. duncanblackthorne says:

    They poison our pets and poison their own milk, and sell us substandard building materials containing highly toxic (and RADIOACTIVE!!!) industrial wastes, and they expect us to trust them with making OUR FOOD??? WTF??? So far as I’m concerned this is just another Cold War, and a very passive-aggresive one to boot: they’re trying to poison us all to death! No, no, and NO!

  37. Starfury says:

    Maybe it’s time to start raising my own chickens. That way when we have them for dinner they’ll be fresh.

  38. Rctdaemon says:

    @Adrienne Willis: It’s been… one week since you looked at me. Dropped your arms to your side and said “I’m sorry”.

  39. Adrienne Willis says:

    @undefined: Five days since I laughed at you and said you just did just what I thought you were gonna do

  40. Don Roberto says:

    I feel like bustin out my X FILES dvds and watching them with no lights on, dont know why… hmmm… my brain just aint tickin like it should

  41. Don Roberto says:
  42. SacraBos says:

    When American importers commit seppuku like the dishonored Chinese that got caught poisoning babies milk, then they can import these Chinese chicken products.

    I would then believe that would take it seriously.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Even if we had country of origin labels on the chicken, we would never see them. The chinese chicken would be used in commercial chicken products like McNuggets and frozen dinners. It’s only when people drop dead and weeks of investigation turn up chinese chicken from McD’s or HungryMan dinners as the culpret that we will discover the sad truth about the state of trade with Cina. It will never hit the news papers before that.

  44. mrearly2 says:

    Good photo!
    We don’t need anything from China, much less food items. We have plenty of tortured chickens here, to eat, anyway.