Tuesday Roundup: ‘Protein Enterprise’

U.S. regulators approve sale of Smithfield to Chinese food corporation • Chinese plants to start processing chicken for U.S. consumers • As the United Kingdom finds more horsemeat in its beef, consumers turn to local butcher


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Smithfield Sale Goes to Shareholders. The sale of Smithfield Foods Inc. will go to a vote of the company’s shareholders September 24, after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approved the purchase by China’s Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd.

In a joint statement from both companies last week, the chief executive officer of Shuanghui International said, “This transaction will create a leading global animal protein enterprise.”


Chinese Chicken. In more international animal protein news, the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this month said it was ending a ban on processed chicken imports from China. But consumers won’t have any information on which processed products have been imported from China. That’s because the chicken won’t have country-of-origin labels.

The four Chinese plants that will process chicken for U.S. consumption won’t have to have a USDA inspector on site to begin with, because they will be exporting “chicken products from birds that were raised in the U.S. and Canada.”

NPR’s “The Salt” blog raises concerns about Chinese food safety, noting “the slew of stories regarding food safety failures in China in recent years. … this year alone, thousands of dead pigs turned up in the waters of Shanghai, rat meat was passed off as mutton and — perhaps most disconcerting for U.S. consumers — there was an outbreak of the H7N9 bird flu virus among live fowl in fresh meat markets.”

Horsemeat Scandal Improves Business for Butchers. And finally, a Welsh newspaper reports that local butcher shops there are selling more meat because of the scandal over the purity of beef in mainstream grocery stores.

“We can guarantee where our meat has come from which is important,” said one butcher who said sale of mince and braising steak were up 20% last month. “As well as our regular customers, we have seen lots of new faces coming in to buy meat products. When people change their shopping habits you know they are fed up.”

Large chains like Tesco and Aldi have found horsemeat in products that were supposed to be beef. Items pulled off the shelves in such stores have included frozen lasagna, frozen spaghetti and burgers.

The documentation that some beef products contain horsemeat “may turn people away from pre-packaged foods for good,” said the chairman of a local food festival in Mold, Wales. “The amount of people buying local is certainly up from what people are telling me. People want to know where their food is coming from. It is all about the element of trust and community you have with local suppliers. I think people have been a little suspicious of supermarkets for a long time, but now there is no longer any trust there.”

Local butchers say they can trace the origin of their meat back to local sources.