Chicken feet set an example for reciprocal U.S.-China trade – China’s latest society and culture news

Society & Culture

A summary of the top news in Chinese society and culture for August 21, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

“Is it because China was a less-developed country since ancient times that we are forced to take advantage of food waste?”

“Why are some Chinese so used to looking down upon themselves when comparing China with other foreign countries? Only Chinese are adept at cooking chicken feet in various ways. American food would not be so boring and tasteless if Americans had grasped one-third of China’s cooking techniques.”

These two comments (in Chinese) represent common, but opposing reactions to the Financial Timesarticle (paywall) on how China’s appetite for U.S. chicken feet “proves a recipe for a perfect trade” between two countries. According to the article, after long and intense negotiations started during the George W. Bush administration to open the Chinese market to American chicken feet, the U.S. poultry industry has finally reached an agreement to open the U.S. market to chicken cooked in China, in return for the ability to sell chicken feet in the Chinese market.

Chicken feet are worthless to most Americans and are not particularly expensive, but because profit margins for U.S. chicken producers are too tight, “selling the feet to China in enormous frozen blocks rather than throwing them away in the U.S. makes for a nice difference in profits.” In exchange, China still needs to use foreign-produced chicken to export to the U.S. The mutually beneficial pact, as the article describes, “killed two birds with one stone.”

The article also notes that both sides have made compromises and concessions to strike the trade deal. On the U.S. side, the Food and Drug Administration agreed to precertify Chinese factories exporting to the U.S. as Beijing proposed, which is against the agency’s philosophy of requiring that all suppliers be subject to random spot checks. China, on the other side, limited the trade to frozen chicken carcasses that had been shipped to China, processed, and then shipped back to the U.S. due to food safety concerns from some representatives in the U.S. Congress.