From The Economist blog:

Food safety: Not yum!

JUST a few months ago a meat-processing plant in Shanghai’s Jiading district won a food safety award. Shanghai Husi Food, one of several such facilities in China owned by OSI Group, an American firm that sells meat products to the world’s leading fast-food chains, was named an “Advanced Unit (A-Class) of Safe Food Production” by local authorities.

Not quite. A hidden-camera exposé, done by local reporters, appears to show workers at the plant relabelling expired meat as fresh and handling food with bare hands. It appeared that the floor of the processing plant was covered with rubbish and sewage, and meat was scooped up off the floor and thrown into mixers. Rotting meat was apparently mixed together with fresh meat and packaged for sale. In this and other ways, the A-Class plant made a mockery of “safe food production.”

The shockwaves rippled through deep fryers across the land. It turns out that OSI is an important supplier to such fast-food chains as McDonald’s and Yum Brands, which controls KFC and Pizza Hut. Both firms immediately halted sale of meat processed by OSI. Starbucks, an American coffee purveyor, pulled from its shelves chicken paninis that contained questionable meat. At least nine big chains, including two Chinese firms and the Japanese arms of several multinationals, are affected.

This is but the latest in a never-ending series of food-safety scandals in China. As usual, the firm at the heart of the controversy claims it is pure as the driven snow. Officials at OSI’s headquarters say they are shocked by the allegations, and insist that if they are true they are anomalies. The damage to the firm’s reputation (which, to be fair, had previously been good) may be hard to repair.

Five officials from the company’s Shanghai operations, including the head of the firm and its quality manager, were detained this week by police. China’s Food and Drug Administration is now investigating the company’s operations in five other provinces. Most damningly, an official declared that the illegal activities “are not the behaviour of a certain individual, but an organised arrangement.”

This latest Chinese food scandal comes not long after the USDA approved the import of chicken processed in China directly into the U.S.  China now joins Canada, Chile, France and Israel as countries permitted to export processed chicken into the U.S.  But, not to worry, according to the USDA, “Consumers should know that any processed poultry from China will be produced under equivalent food-safety standards and conditions as U.S. poultry.”  Isn’t that reassuring?

Any chicken processed in China and imported into the U.S., strangely enough, will likely be made from chickens raised in the U.S., since the U.S. exports hundreds of millions of dollars worth of chicken to China every year, and since that number continues to rise.  Recently China lifted a 7-year ban on importation of Virginia chicken, to the delight of our agricultural establishment, and the big chicken companies are busy building new chicken factories here to meet the Chinese demand.  Nearby Bedford County just voted to change its setback laws in order to permit the building of chicken CAFOs, for example, citing new markets in China as a reason.

So we’ll be raising chickens in American CAFOs, and fattening them on subsidized GMO grain. Those who survive the hellish conditions will be slaughtered here. The breasts (sans bones and skin) will stay here to satisfy the ever-increasing American demand for boneless skinless breasts, while the rest of the bird will be frozen and floated across two oceans to China, to be converted into chicken nuggets in places like Shanghai Husi Food.

As Joel Salatin likes to say, “Folks, this ain’t normal.”

Why not just say no to globalized food?  Buy delicious, humanely-raised whole chickens from local farmers you know and trust instead.  You’ll have to pay more than they’re charging at Yum Brands.  But stories like this one reveal why.

25 comments on “Yum?

  1. EllaDee says:

    Every time I here one of these media reports, the Barenaked Ladies “One Week: song lyrics run through my head…
    “Chickity China the Chinese chicken
    You have a drumstick and your brain stops tickin'”
    What really concerns me is what the media doesn’t report.


    • Bill says:

      However much they don’t report, there is surely far more that they don’t even know. These stories make very clear why it’s so important to know the source of your food.


  2. jubilare says:

    “ain’t normal” doesn’t begin to cover it.


  3. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, well, if I read your posts long enough, I’ll not be eating anything. I mean that in a good way. My grandson would say, “Grandpa, you’re being sarcastic, aren’t you.” How many people blissfully ignorant about food and the way it gets to the store don’t really want to know? They would seriously have to think about what they are eating and well quite frankly a large number of folks live on fast food or near fast food. Near fast food to me is processed meals that are frozen. The media has become so controlled by political agendas that it doesn’t surprise me that not much is heard about things like this from them. FDA and other watch dog government departments are failing in there duties to protect the public. Food corporations are so large and so multinational that policing there production is extremely difficult. I’m not sure what the answer is. If everyone decided to support the local farmer and buy only home grown free range meat, what’s in place would only be a drop in a bucket to meet the demand. While reading an article about GMO corn, the statement was made, “If you are starving from no food, and someone gave you GMO corn to make a meal, I seriously doubt you would refuse it because it was GMO.” The article was geared to sending GMO corn to third world countries. But the same statement could used here in this country. Not maybe starving but really hungry. It’s a tough road to get people to change the way they eat even if they know the truth. Keep up the good work. My prayers are with you and Cherie.

    I wish I lived closer. I take those split tomatoes.

    Have a great yummy day from the garden.


    • Bill says:

      Thanks Dave. I’d be glad to give you some split tomatoes. 🙂

      That statement about GMO corn strikes me as funny, since the stuff is indigestible by humans. It’s grown to be fed to cattle, pigs and chickens (and increasingly to make ethanol). It takes factories and laboratories to extract the corn syrup and other derivatives that go into processed food. If you handed a starving man an ear of that corn, he’d still starve.


      • nebraskadave says:

        Bill, I don’t know if that’s actually done with third world countries but the argument in the article was that people don’t care what they eat if they are hungry enough as long as it satisfies the hunger. Regular corn is not very digestible either. Without being too graphic, the corn on the cob that I enjoy today doesn’t look like it digested much when it comes out tomorrow. I’m not sure about when corn meal is used instead just munching down on a cob of corn.

        Have a great non GMO corn day.


  4. ain't for city gals says:

    The book The Meat Racket almost made me feel sorry for the big time chicken farmers….what a racket Tyson has going.


    • Bill says:

      I haven’t read the book but I know about how the operators of chicken CAFOs get taken by the big chicken companies. I don’t know why anyone would want these things on their farms.


  5. avwalters says:

    It’s easy to point fingers, as though China were the problem. CAFOs aren’t pretty, either, and wreak havoc on local watersheds, while employing at minimum wage and high-speed conveyor processing. Now they want to do their own health and safety inspections, too! My, my! Isn’t that the fox watching the henhouse. Don’t worry though, our legislators are busy on the issue. All around the country they’re passing laws to make it illegal to photograph the cruelty inside CAFOs. Because, here in America, we don’t want to see the true cost and horror of how we produce food. Or at least that’s what Big Ag tells us.

    Know your farmer, know your food.


    • Bill says:

      Amen. CAFOs and globalized food systems are the problems. Once we get to the point of producing “food” this way, it doesn’t much matter to me whether the factory is in China or the U.S. We’ve already passed the crazy point.


  6. Dani says:

    I saw something about this on TV earlier this week / the programme continues next week. Pretty horrific info, and it seems that Chinese products are in a vast amount of goods in stores worldwide. As you say the best option is to grow / raise your own or purchase from known fresh produce suppliers and cook EVERYTHING from scratch!


  7. valbjerke says:

    Thankfully – we never eat out, never eat fast food, and actually do make most everything from scratch – not a box or can of processed food to be found anywhere in my house. It’s not easy to do though – you have to be uber determined and pretty darn driven to pull it off….still – people have to recognize they speak with their wallets. They can open their wallet at a farmers market, or a big box store. There are always choices that can be made.


    • Bill says:

      That’s right. It’s up to us to decide how important the quality of our food is to us. We choose to set our priorities. Lots of people don’t prioritize food, as strange as that seems.


  8. shoreacres says:

    ” “Consumers should know that any processed poultry from China will be produced under equivalent food-safety standards and conditions as U.S. poultry….”

    Translation: If we’re lucky, consumers never will figure out that backroom deals, payoffs to corrupt officials (both American and Chinese) and “inattentive” inspectors are providing them a product roughly equivalent to what you can find in your neighborhood dumpster.”


  9. Leigh says:

    Why should I be surprised? Trouble is, folks only think of the cost in terms of money. There’s a whole lot more to it than that.


  10. When we act as if we are all not connected, it’s horrifying.


  11. Willow says:

    Funny just this morning I was watching our chickens free range . Some of the chickens were pecking at apples that fell off the old apple tree . As I was watching them I was delighting in the fact that they do free range and how wonderful our eggs are. It’s a shame what has happened to our food chains in big business. So proud of solid stedfast organic farmers.


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