In an article this week, The US Department of Agriculture “quietly” announced ending a ban on processed chicken imports from China. The US food industry can now import chicken nuggets without the need to state the country of origin. The four initial plants approved for shipments to the US can (for now) only ship product made from birds imported from the United States, or Canada.
To me, this is egregious in many ways. For starters there is the concern for the quality of the product. There must have been a reason in the first place that these imports were banned. And, of course, the implications are that birds raised in China will be next in line for the nugget machines. Are we to assume that the Chinese birds are of the same quality level acceptable by the US Department of Agriculture?
Beyond the potential quality issues is just the simple fact that the creation of chicken nuggets is highly automated. Is it to be believed that the labor costs in China are so low that a fully automated process in China can be so much more cost effective that it can absorb the transportation costs to and from China for these chickens? Or is it that Chinese chickens are what are so inexpensive? The plan may be for this initial approval (and lack of country or origin label) to allow for the US consumer to experience a “transparent” transition from American chicken nuggets to Chinese chicken nuggets.
There is a company in China, sometimes referred to as the eBay of China, with sales in excess of Amazon and eBay combined. Known as The Alibaba Group (Alibaba.com), it is a business to business entity where anybody can buy pretty much anything. In the case of automated chicken nugget making machines, Alibaba.com offers quite a selection.
I suggest that it would be cheaper to buy these machines and use them in the US to process domestic chickens. Was there some other reason, beyond cost that motivated the Agriculture Department to approve these imports?
Now back to the original question: “Do we really need to be buying chicken nuggets from China?”