THE CHICKEN WAR

Uh-oh, America has gotten into a global game of chicken with China. The face-off involves rubber and chickens – not rubber chickens, but the actual birds. And rubber tires.

Uh-oh, America has gotten into a global game of chicken with China. The face-off involves rubber and chickens – not rubber chickens, but the actual birds. And rubber tires.

It seems that Chinese tire manufacturers have been dumping their product on the American market, unfairly undercutting U.S. tire makers. President Obama stood up to this predatory attack by slapping a tariff on the Made-in-China tires.

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Good! But now the Chinese are threatening to retaliate by putting their own tariffs on chicken meat they import from U.S. processors. Hmmm, bad. Groups like the National Chicken Council are clucking and squawking over this, for U.S. processors ship about $850-million worth of chicken meat annually to China. That’s less than two percent of the industry’s revenue, but it’s not chicken feed, because the exports to China are extremely profitable. Why? Because about half of these exports are chicken feet and wings.

In our country, the processors get approximately nothing for chicken feet and only a few pennies for wings. The Chinese, however, consider them delicacies – especially the feet – and our corporations are getting up to 80-cents a pound for them!

What’s so special about American-grown chicken feet? They’re big! As a poultry consultant says, “We have these jumbo, juicy paws the Chinese really love.” The size turns out to be the serendipitous result of the industry’s breeding program to produce birds with lots of breast meet. To support their heavy breasts, chickens had to grow larger feet. The happy result for the processors is that America has become the world’s Number One exporter of king size chicken feet.

I don’t know if that’s why the chicken crossed the road, but it is why chicken feet are crossing the ocean – unless they get run over by tires.

“A Taste for Chicken Feet May Keep American Chicken In Chinese Pots,” The New York Times, September 16, 2009.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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