Meat Wars Illustrate Need for Local Food

July 10, 2009 12:00 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Food safety concerns have prompted the U.S. and China to ban imports of each other’s chicken, calling attention to the case for locally grown food.

Chicken Feet Get the Boot

According to Reuters, “U.S. chicken feet are being booted out of China” in response to a U.S. ban on chicken imports from China that could be extended after Congressional deliberations on the 2010 federal budget.

China’s ban has not been officially announced, but U.S. exporters say the Chinese are angry that their products are not accepted in the U.S., and that the chicken feet ban may be an act of revenge. The result is a meat trade war that, according to one analyst, would impact earnings of major producers like Tyson Foods Inc. if not reversed by October. “In total, China bought 754,000 tons of U.S. chicken in 2008, or $676 million worth, according to trade statistics,” Reuters reported.

This is not the first time that China has banned a U.S. import for questionable reasons.

In April, during the height of the swine flu scare, China banned U.S. raw pork imports, causing companies such as Smithfield Foods and Bob Evans Farms to lose money. According to USA Today, investors were concerned that consumers might also stop buying pork “due to confusion about how the virus spreads.”

In 2007, China refused imports of pork from the U.S. and Canada after traces of the “growth stimulant ractopamine” were detected. The drug is banned in China and many other countries, but is permissible “in 24 countries, including the United States and Canada” said China’s official news agency, Xinhua, according to The New York Times. China’s rejection of the imported pork followed a series of scandalous safety incidents involving numerous Chinese exports, such as toys and toothpaste, according to The Times.

Opinion & Analysis: The case for local food

In an article for The Hamilton Spectator, Howard Elliott illuminates the “many and diverse benefits to eating local,” including that “[l]ocally grown food can more easily be raised without chemicals and additives since it doesn’t need to be transported.” The issue of “food-supply security” is also crucial, suggests Elliott, as local food allows “more personal control [over] what we buy and eat.”
One South Carolina family, the Schaums, have taken the local food movement to heart. They’ve opened a store that will only sell local foods, including meat and dairy products, and will offer visitors tours of the family’s on-site farm. “It gives you more of a perspective of what you’re buying,” Ana Parra, a local Farmer’s Market Executive Director, told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.

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