The US Department of Agriculture quietly announced on Friday that it had approved four Chinese poultry plants to ship processed chicken into the US. It's no wonder it tried to sneak that news onto the eve of a long weekend, notes Bloomberg: China has a dodgy reputation for food safety, with repeated outbreaks of avian flu and the New York Times reports that Chinese-made chicken jerky recently killed hundreds of US dogs. So it's a little worrying that these processing plants will operate without USDA inspectors, and the agency does not require point-of-origin labeling, so American consumers will not know where their chicken comes from.
Currently, the Chinese plants will only be able to use chickens raised in the US. But, per the Times, a food safety lobbyist warns: "This is the first step towards allowing China to export its own domestic chickens to the US." This latest move follows a chicken-centered spat between the US and Chinese governments: Congress previously blocked Chinese chicken exports, so the Middle Kingdom slapped huge tariffs on US chicken exports. Now the US chicken industry is keen to get more of its birds into China. "We certainly don’t look forward to any more imports, but we also realize free trade is a two-way street,” says a spokesman for the National Chicken Council. "We’re hoping the Chinese will look a little more favorably on our chicken products and on other US agricultural imports."