Made in China: Poultry Edition

colin

Watch this skit for me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAlWrT5P2VI
(media credit: IFC, Portlandia)

I can’t tell you how many times I have laughed over this since it aired. How many times Michele has, over a plate of chicken tacos, joked that “His name was Colin.”.

The couple in this video. God love them. Do you know these two in real life? People that want to know everything about a piece of meat before they’ll eat it? People who would want to see the chicken’s permanent record before ordering? Who’d consider leaving the restaurant and driving to the farm 30 miles away to make sure they had a good feeling about the environment in which the chicken had been raised? Inane. Ridiculous.

I have more chicken ridiculousness to share, and this time it is real rather than scripted (and not funny in the slightest): the USDA has decided to let plants in China process our chicken. They have approved four plants so far.

Here is how this will work: We (the US) will raise the chickens, slaughter them here on American soil, “heat-treat” them while they are still state-side to (hopefully) kill off the cooties, and then we will ship the dead chickens to plants in China to be processed. By “processed,” I mean that they will be cut up and turned into products: chucked for pot pie and soup. Shaped into nuggets. Once the chickens have been processed, they will be put back on a ship and sent back to the US. The products the chickens have become will be stocked on shelves in the grocery store. We will buy them and eat them.

There is just a bit more: since the chickens will only be processed in China, not grown and slaughtered, there will be no legal requirement for food manufacturers to label “China” as the country of origin. Inane. Ridiculous.

Consider that the USDA, with funds we provide as taxpayers, exists to see that the food manufactured and consumed here in the US is safe, nutritious and sustainable. My questions, keeping in mind that I am neither a local food activist nor an economist, are these:

Aren’t 7.4% of US workers unemployed?  Is it possible that a few of these folks could throw chicken into a grinder or run a nugget extruder?

Are will still trying to cut back on how much oil we use given that all the oil-rich countries hate us (and because fossil fuels are non-renewable)? Doesn’t it waste a lot of oil to give dead chickens round trips to China? Like, a whole lot of oil?

Doesn’t China regularly make the news for dangerous food processing practices? Haven’t we had issues with even non-food products as recently as last year? Toys that were found to contain lead paint?

What will have to transpire before we purchase chickens raised on Chinese soil? Is that just around the corner?

How are we ever going to be sure that we are eating what we ordered? What part of this sounds “safe, nutritious and sustainable?” Maybe it is time for the rest of us to drive out and see the farm.

mcm.edu

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