American chickens processed in China, USDA allows this

American chickens processed in China, USDA allows this

This sounds like one of these outrageous stories that your grandma keeps sharing on Facebook, without even fact checking whether it is true. Well, this one is true. Or at least partially true.

There was a ban on American chickens in China, as part of trade war incited by Trump administration. As of 2019, things are cooling down. U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has recently reached a compromise with Chinese authorities. American farmers will be able to ship poultry to China for processing and packaging. The processed products can be shipped back to the United States, and be labelled as “American raised chickens”. The meat does not need to be labeled as processed in China.

U.S. chickens transported to China and back – what’s the point?

Chicken meat - Chinese cuisine
Chicken meat and other ingredients for lou mei – Cantonese cuisine.

Several Chinese companies are already whitelisted, after having undergone USDA safety checks. Exporting U.S. chickens to China and bringing them back seems like an unnecessarily convoluted process. What’s the point? First issue is the cheap labor. According to estimations by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, American poultry processing worker is paid approximately $11 per hour. Their Chinese counterpart will work for $1-$2 per hour.

Different taste of American and Chinese consumers also helps. Market for chicken feet is almost non-existant in the U.S., whereas Chinese cuisine makes use of chicken feet eagerly. So, along with some other parts, the feet can stay in China, while chicken breasts loved by Americans are re-imported after return journey of 13,000 miles.

Fact source:
A Rule by the Food Safety and Inspection Service, Effective December 9, 2019.

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  1. Not cool. But I can’t tell I’m surprised.


  2. Classic late stage capitalism. The rich are something else.


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