The USDA is moving to open the U.S. border to Chinese chicken amid final talks between the two countries to wrap up a partial trade pact that is promised to result in China increasing its imports of U.S. ag commodities.

USDA will publish a final rule Friday that allows China to certify slaughter and processing facilities there to export chicken to the U.S.

Bloomberg is reporting that China is preparing to lift its four-year ban on U.S. chicken.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has conducted multiple audits of Chinese inspection protocols and facilities there, but the country has a long history of food safety problems, including contaminated dairy products and pet treats.

“The Trump administration is bowing to China at the expense of public health in America with his new poultry deal,” said Food & Water Action Executive Director Wenonah Hauter.In one fell swoop, this trade deal means that American families can serve contaminated chicken for dinner and not even know it.”

FSIS approval is less than adequate, according to Tony Corbo, a lobbyist with Food & Water Action, because the agency only approved the food safety system in two of China’s 23 provinces — Shandong and Anhui. Still, China will now be free to certify slaughterhouses and processors in any province and FSIS inspectors will only conduct audits later.

China will not initially be able to export raw chicken to the U.S. FSIS has approved it, but USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is blocking those shipments because of the ongoing outbreaks of avian influenza in China.

Chinese chicken, for now, must be fully cooked before it can be shipped to the U.S. because of the APHIS opposition.

But the USDA approval is a major win for China, which has been pushing the U.S. to approve the safety of its chicken for about 15 years. U.S. approval is much coveted by China after the numerous food safety scandals it has suffered.

Chinese chicken coming into the U.S. won’t have an origin label, but it also won’t be allowed into the school lunch program of federal feeding programs for kids because of a prohibition approved by Congress in the current appropriations legislation.

China isn’t expected to ship much chicken to the U.S., but if China follows through and lifts its ban on U.S. chicken, it is expected to spur hundreds of millions of dollars in trade.

“The opening of China — even if it was just for chicken paws alone … would increase the bottom line of U.S. chicken companies by $835 million per year, U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council President Jim Sumner told Agri-Pulse in a recent interview.

While the Chinese love chicken paws, U.S. consumers generally do not. U.S. producers have been selling the paws to domestic renderers during the Chinese ban and getting about 5 cents per pound. That same product – about 1.5 billion pounds per year – sells for about 87 cents per pound when it can be sold to Chinese buyers.

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