Is Tyson Having Chicken Processed in China and Selling it to the USA?

There has been a heated Facebook discussion about the USA allowing American chickens to be processed in China – and this “processed chicken from China” does not need to be labeled as such. This has sparked outrage (delayed – as this became law in 2013 see Chinese Chicken Processors are Cleared for U.S. Imports – NY Times). Some have suggested that Tyson is sending their chickens to China to be processed into small chicken nuggests and sent back to the U.S. to be sold. The outrage has become so loud that even Tyson has publicly come out and said that this is all a hoax:

On July 14, 2015, Tyson Foods came out with this Facebook post:
There is a post going around Facebook suggesting we are planning to ship chicken to China for processing to be returned to the U.S. for sale, eliminating thousands of jobs in the process. This is a hoax, and nothing suggested in the post is true. For more information click here http://www.tysonfoods.com/…/China%20Poultry%20Exports%20to%…

So What is the Truth? Does Tyson Plan to Process U.S. Chickens in China?

If you want a very brief answer – skip to the conclusion. If you want to know about the circumstances, please read below.

Before we can answer the question of whether Tyson plans to process poultry in China ,we first need to evaluate the history of the law that was passed to allow U.S. poultry to be processed in China.

In order to be able to process chicken in China, it meant that somebody (China) had to contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)(notation corrected 7/26/15)  to certify that that China was “equivalent” in processing to the United States. This happened in 2004 when China lobbied the U.S. to process chicken (as well as to slaughter chicken and handle raw chicken – both of which have not been approved as of yet.) China received permission, in November 2005, when a branch of the USDA, the Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS), passed the law allowing processing of chicken in China even though no “equivalent” processing plants were specifically approved. Following FSIS passing this law (still unfinalized), there was a two month period of final comments from Congress. Some people who received leaked news of this law, violently protested. But the law was finalized in 2006. However, the criticisms of the law raised the ire of many in Congress which then refused to fund this law from 2006 to 2009.

Revenge By China

China, which was happy to finally acquire “equivalent” processing, was not amused that Congress would not let them process poultry from the United States (by de-funding the project). Also, unhappy were major American corporations like Cargill, Tyson, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Sam’s and Yum! Brands which had strong financial interest in exploiting the burgeoning Chinese poultry markets. Many of the companies already had large financial stakes and favorable contracts in the Chinese Markets.
China retaliated by raising import tariffs on U.S. poultry by 43%, up to 104.5%. The result: a 90% decrease in “broiler” chicken imports from the U.S. In another case of retaliation, in 2003, China and several other countries banned U.S. beef, because of a single case of “Mad Cow” disease found in Yakima, Washington. Every other country has lifted the U.S. beef ban except China.
China then went running to their old-time friend, the World Trade Organization, to sue the United States. China contended that Congress’s inaction was costing them money. The WTO agreed. And funding was restored to the law and U.S. poultry could legally be processed in China on August 30, 2013. And even though all USDA audits demonstrated that Chinese processing plants were inadequate, still four plants were approved. (The U.S. government currently allows Canada, Chile, France and Israel to export processed poultry to the U.S.). Only mild outrage followed the back page story that announced this controversial law was active.
The Tyson Story
Since Tyson has gone to great lengths to deny they are processing U.S. poultry in China, let us put a spotlight on some of the ties between Tyson and China: (From the 2012 Tyson Holdings) Tyson Foods has had a presence in China since 2001 and currently has three poultry operations in different provences in the country: Tyson DaLong, Tyson Shandong (which comprises three slaughter facilities and employs 7,000 people) and Tyson Nantong. Tyson also has processing facilities in India, Brazil and Mexico.
Possible Evidence of Tyson Importing Chicken into the U.S.
Tyson plans to import poultry into the US from its plant in Mexico. In its Tyson’s Holdings Fact Book 2012, regarding its Mexico plants: ” From our Mexico facilities, we export chicken to Vietnam and Guatemala, and we expect to achieve our first exports to the United States and Africa in the near future”.
Possible Evidence of Tyson Importing Beef into the U.S.
Tyson plans to import beef into the U.S. from Brazil. Tyson has plants in Brazil to process chicken and beef. Tyson, is very smart, by having a plant in Brazil, they can ship poultry to Europe, while U.S. poultry is still banned in Europe. Just this week, the USDA has allowed the imports of beef from Brazil and Argentina into the United States. Coincidence, I think not.
Other Evidence – Only Tyson Lobbies the USDA for market access for chicken in China 
According to Newsweek: In 2013, in the months before the USDA approved the four Chinese plants to process chickens for the U.S. market, of the country’s four major chicken companies—Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms—only Tyson lobbied the USDA for “market access for chicken to China” (and other countries). Neither the National Chicken Council nor the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association put any money toward the cause.
Tyson’s Argument that They will Not Be Importing Chicken processed in China Back to the USA

Tyson says they are not planning on processing U.S. poultry in China. They don’t have to say why, but they are playing the money card. Tom Super, spokesman for the National Chicken Council, in a recent Houston Chronicle article about our petition:

“Economically, it doesn’t make much sense,” Super said. “Think about it: A Chinese company would have to purchase frozen chicken in the United States, pay to ship it 7,000 miles, unload it, transport it to a processing plant, unpack it, cut it up, process/cook it, freeze it, repack it, transport it back to a port, then ship it another 7,000 miles. I don’t know how anyone could make a profit doing that.”

Rebuttal to Tyson’s Argument That Poultry Is Too Expensive to Process in China
There are good precedents about processing U.S. food in China. Salmon and Dungeness Crab caught on the West Coast are shipped to China to be processed and then are shipped back to the USA according to The Huffington Post. The reason why companies do this? Because it is cheaper in China to pay workers, wages are less and Chinese workers usually have no benefits. Factories have minimal health and safety standards. So, why not process poultry in China? Why would Tyson lobby the USDA to get processing US chicken in China approved? Why would China want to process U.S. poultry if it wasn’t economically feasible?
Rebuttal To The Rebuttal
Some think that Tyson’s lobbying the USDA to allow China process U.S. poultry may have been purely political. That it was done to get favor from China, so that China would ultimately allow U.S. meat back into their country. Tyson, also, at the same time, made an enemy of China, when they took China to the WTO court and had those extremely high tariffs on U.S. poultry repealed in 2013.
The Real Reasons
If you had to look at this issue, you might say why would Tyson go to all this trouble, spend millions and millions of dollars to have U.S. poultry processed in China. This venture could be profitable yes, but to the point of recuperating these millions already spent? Maybe, but it would take many years. Mega-corporations have been known to play the long game. And this is exactly the case. The long game is not just “Processing” U.S. poultry in China and then ship it back to the U.S. No, the ultimate goal of Tyson is to process not only poultry, but also beef and pork in China (and other countries) and ship it to all countries. And the only way that this becomes possible is through two methods. First, if Tyson can give the impression that all of exported China’s poultry and beef are safe -by  continuing to lobby the USDA – this would then allow all poultry and meat from China into the USA.
Second, Tyson needs to repeal the Country of Origin Labeling (C.O.O.L.) law written by the USA. And surprise, this is already done. Tyson which is part of the American Meat Institute sued the USDA through the World Trade Organization Court and had this law repealed. For the stunning details of the lawsuits and the repeal of COOL, see my expose: US Appeals WTO Ruling against National Meat Labels.
Once Tyson has achieved both of these goals, then Tyson can co-mix cuts of meats, they can co-mix different types of meats, they can co-mix meats from any nation, and none of it will be labelled. Then Tyson can make big profits. That is their real strategy.
Tyson has been instrumental in helping China get the status of being “equivalent” to the USA in processing poultry and therefore, China can now legally process U.S. Chicken into the U.S. And restaurants that serve this China-processed chicken do not have to label this food as being from China. So, has Tyson started sending its US poultry to China to be processed since they already have three processing plants in China? The answer appears to be no, thus far. Will it do so in the future? Yes, that is there plan. Will it happen in two years, ten years or twenty years, that is the open question. Tyson and the American Meat Institute (now called the North American Meat Institute since 2015) have clearly demonstarted that they want no meat to labeled so they can ultimately package any combination of meat products together and from any country they select – to maximize profits.
As far as the cutting of jobs, Tyson has already closed numerous poultry plants in the USA over the past six years. We do not know when the next U.S. processing plant will be closed, while we do know their international plants continue to grow.
So, is Tyson evil? The answer: Tyson is a multi-national mega-corporation that wants to dominate all aspects of poultry and meat.
For the best official reference about the Chicken processing in China case see: Country of Origin Labeling Revisited: Processed Chicken from China and the USDA Processed Foods Exception, from the Minnesota Judicial Law, Science and Technology by Daniel Schueppart.

4 Responses to “Is Tyson Having Chicken Processed in China and Selling it to the USA?”

  1. 1 Lynda
    July 24, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Excellent article

  2. 2 DAVE
    July 24, 2015 at 9:59 pm


  3. August 3, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Wow! Why am I not surprised. I never buy Tyson to start with but the corporate greed is gross. Sending overseas for processing – That is one polluting operation!! Grrr. I have heard other companies doing it, think it was fish sticks and similar product. Thanks for posting!

  4. 4 Midge Whitt
    June 19, 2017 at 2:03 am

    I won’t buy Tyson because I’m afraid it’s processed in China. Actually never bought it,because I’ve found a supplier that has good antibiotic free chicken. I’ll buy Ametican! And made in America, grown in America…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

July 2015
« Jun   Aug »


%d bloggers like this: