More on the Smithfield Merger

Confession: when I go shopping and see that something is “Made in China” I hesitate. Having lived there for 9 months, I can at least say my hesitation is supported by experience. I’m not the only one who does this, right? We’ve been effectively programed to associate Chinese products with low cost and low quality.

Needless to say, I was more than a little surprised when I came across this article from NBC about the potential Chinese take-over of Smithfield Foods. Turns out the Chinese interest is at least partially driven by a desire to better quality control. They are concerned about the meat they import from us and want to ensure it is up to their more-stringent standards.

China demanding quality from the US.

Didn’t see that coming, huh?

Turns out most of our industrial pigs are treated with ractopamine, a drug that improves growth by promoting lean muscle development and increasing how efficiently a pig can convert food to meat. Basically, you get bigger pigs faster. Ractopamine is banned by China, Russia, and the EU which means those markets are closed to most US pork producers. They are concerned that ractopamine will be stored in the meat and organs and will ultimately be consumed by unwitting humans. The health effects on humans who consume low levels are unknown.

Many pork producer, including Smithfield, have started raising ractopamine-free pigs for export. That allegedly is one of the main factors that drove the acquisition. That means it is entirely possible to raise good meat pigs without this drug.

China is concerned about ractopamine. Shouldn’t you be?

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