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USDA green lights US chicken processing in China

Chickens roost at a poultry farm on April 17, 2013 in Taizhou, China.
Chickens roost at a poultry farm on April 17, 2013 in Taizhou, China.
ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images

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American chickens could soon be getting a roundtrip ticket to Asia.

The USDA has recently approved four Chinese poultry plants to process U.S. chickens. That means chicken carcasses could be sent to China, processed and then shipped back here for consumers (possibly in time for dinner). There are still a few more bureaucratic steps before this could actually start happening.

Politico's Senior Agriculture reporter Bill Tomson says it’s not clear whether this is even feasible, but China asked to be able to do it.

“Mind you, the end game is a bit broader,” Tomson said. “What China would like to do is move beyond this and export their own chicken here.”

This is just the first step. Currently, the U.S. doesn’t allow the importation of Chinese chicken for consumption by humans. The U.S. does allow it for pet food, however. 

“But they could make more money from it, obviously, by selling it for human food,” Tomson said. "In a way, it’s not just about the money. It has been explained to me that this is a matter of pride for China. China has had a lot of recent problems with food safety issues. It would be a trophy to hold up a certificate and say, ‘Look: we’ve been approved to send chicken over to the United States.’”

One of the biggest criticisms of this idea is that something could slip through the cracks. For example, would U.S. inspectors be able to examine the processed chicken?

“USDA officials have said … it’s pretty cooked, so that’s going to kill any bacteria,” Tomson said, adding that officials have said it’s the same chicken coming back.

American-raised, Chinese-processed chicken could be a reality in the United States as soon as a year, Tomson said.

Web article by Nuran Alteir