Put the words "food" and "China" together and many people think of the 1,950 cats and 2,200 dogs who perished from China-produced pet food a few years ago and the Asian melamine milk scandals that plague Asian countries. Still the takeover of Smithfield Foods by Shuanghui, the biggest takeover of a US company, shows our food future is being shaped by China--and chicken is no exception. Many missed the announcement that the Obama administration has approved chicken processed in China to be sold in the US without a country-of-origin label. The chickens will be raised and slaughtered in USDA-approved US or Canada operations, but sent to China for processing (which is called "labor-intensive") and sent back to the US. The savings in farming out the labor, no pun intended, is apparently greater than the cost of shipping the chickens both to and from China --though no one is talking about the carbon footprint. Nor is anyone talking about how the chickens will be preserved during their overseas voyages and how old they will be when they get to the dinner table.
No USDA officials will be onsite at the Chinese chicken processing plants which will, instead, "self-verify" their quality as plants are increasingly doing here. The National Chicken Council says the processed chicken will have "increased inspection upon entry into the United States" and that substandard exporters will be disqualified. Whew.
Cruelty to Animals
Chemicals, cost cutting and outsourcing labor take a toll on the birds whose lives and deaths are increasingly inhumane. Chickens were once slaughtered at 14 weeks when they weighed about two pounds but by 2001, they were being slaughtered at seven weeks when they weighed between four and six pounds Today they are even bigger and their lives shorter. In fact, chickens are now grown so quickly, if humans grew as fast, we'd weigh 349 pound s by our second birthday! As a result, chickens have constant bone disease, live in chronic pain and perish from eerie, factory-farm related diseases. "Good birds on their sides or breasts, scattered in a random fashion in the pen also usually are considered to be dead from flip-over," says Poultry News. "Diagnosis is supported by the full GI tract (particularly the full intestine); the large, pale liver; the large, normal bursa; the contracted ventricles and dilated, blood-filled atria; the lung congestion and edema; and the lack of pathological lesions."
Assembly lines move so fast in today's chicken slaughterhouses, poultry workers, the government and even the chicken industry admit that the birds break their own bones in struggling to escape the uncaring death that the pursuit of cheap meat forces on them.
Many people have decided to only eat chicken to avoid the health, environmental, worker and humane questions surrounding red meat. Yet the track record of US chicken in these areas is no better than red meat--and may be worse.
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