Tyson Foods Plans to Cut U.S. Jobs, Import Chicken from China-Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
Rumors have run rampant on social media sites that Tyson Foods will cut 75,000 jobs in the U.S. and begin to import processed chicken to the U.S. from facilities in China.
There’s no proof that Tyson Foods plans import chicken from China to the U.S.
That rumor has lit up social media sites and has sparked concerns about the quality of the chicken that Tyson (supposedly) plans to import to the U.S. from China.
Many of these claims can be traced back to a USDA initiative to certify Chinese facilities to process U.S.-raised poultry for sale in the U.S. The approval process, which started in 2006, temporarily ground to a halt after Congress voted to defund USDA inspections of Chinese poultry imports, but that didn’t last long, Newsweek reports:
Soon China’s certification lapsed, but it appealed to the World Trade Organization, which ruled in 2009 that Congress’s treatment of the country was unfair. Funding was restored and the process of approval began again. A series of USDA audits followed, all of which found China unfit to process U.S. poultry. Then, in 2013, without further inspection, the agency granted four Chinese plants certification. “It seems China is continually getting to the head of the line,” (Tony Corbo, a lobbyist at the nonprofit Food and Water Watch), says.
The USDA announced in August 2013 that after “a few minor suggestions” a number of Chinese poultry facilities had been approved to process U.S.-raised chicken that could be sold in the U.S.:
As all outstanding issues have been resolved, the PRC may proceed with certifying a list of poultry processing establishments as meeting the FSIS requirements. These certified establishments may then begin exporting processed (heat-treated/cooked) poultry products to the United States under the conditions established in FSIS’ April 2006 final rule; i.e. only processed poultry products produced from poultry slaughtered under FSIS inspection in the United States or in a country eligible to export slaughtered poultry to the United States.
So, it’s true that a number of Chinese poultry facilities are certified to process U.S.-raised chicken that could be sold in the U.S.
But claims that Tyson plans to cut 75,000 U.S. jobs and to export chicken from China to the U.S. are unfounded.
Tyson called the rumor a “hoax” in a company statement:
All of the chicken we sell in the U.S. is raised and processed here in the U.S. The posts being shared on social media channels are a hoax. We have no plans to cut jobs or process chicken in China to be returned to the U.S.
The rumor appears to have started with reports that Tyson was the only major U.S. chicken processor that lobbied the USDA for “market access for chicken to China” and other countries.
But that doesn’t mean Tyson wants to use that market access to export chicken from China to the U.S. The company told Newsweek that its lobbying efforts were actually meant to free up U.S. chicken exports to China:
So why did Tyson lobby the USDA? Corporations are not required to disclose in detail their reasons for supporting specific issues, but in an email to Newsweek, Tyson says that the lobbying efforts reported in 2013 were around trade and tariff issues for the export of U.S.-produced products into China and not related to the import of poultry products produced in China. It also sought to have Chinese import bans lifted from two major poultry producing states.
There’s speculation that the USDA’s approval of Chinese chicken imports was a bargaining chip to open up food trade between the two countries.
Food and Water Watch said China nixed U.S. beef exports in 2003 after a cow in Washington State was diagnosed with mad cow disease. The U.S. was shut out of the beef market despite soaring beef prices there.
China also placed high tariffs on chicken imports from the U.S. because it claimed that it was sold below market value, Politico reports:
The tariffs cut off 80 percent of U.S. chicken exports to China. The World Trade Organization ruled in July that the tariffs were unjustified. It remains unclear if China will abide by the ruling or appeal.
The poultry industry was careful to not express a great deal of enthusiasm in response to Friday’s news.
“I’m cautiously optimistic this is good news for our industry,” said Toby Moore, a spokesman for the U.S.A. Poultry and Egg Export Council.
That helps explain why Tyson would be motivated to lobby the USDA on trade and tariff issues related to chicken products exported to China.