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)