To Supply, Or Not? Chinese Government Demands Pig in a Poke!

And in other news….

China will stop imports of US pork unless it’s certified Ractopamine-Free as of 1 March 2013.

Ractopamine is a beta-agonist, delivered through feed in the last 2-3 weeks of the feeding period, which causes energy to deposit to muscle rather than fat, thereby increasing the lean meat yield on each hog killed. In short, it’s great for efficiency, which, by definition, is great for the environment, as it produces more end product using fewer resources.


Photo courtesy of Trent Loos.
Stolen with assumed permission.
Update: Permission granted. Whew!

Small traces of ractopamine have been found in pork, but you’d have to eat lots of ractopamine to experience any ill effects. And I mean A LOT. If you take a lot of anything … even water! … it will kill you.

So the Chinese Government, succumbing to pressure (maybe their pork producers have a strong lobby, but I’m guessing it’s more from international animal rights groups), have banned ractopamine and pork produced using it.

The fact is that pork from hogs fed ractopamine is the same as pork from hogs not fed ractopamine. It’s a safe and proven technology. (Of course, there’s not a shortage of articles scaremongering about it.) So the Chinese Government is demanding that their own people pay more money for the same product.

US pork producer Smithfield Farms has promised to supply the pork mandated by the Chinese Government, and will go through the required third-party audits.

Trent Loos’s short monolog on Smithfield’s move is worth listening to. Trent quotes the Smithfield spokesman.

He boasts of his company’s ability, due to vertical integration, to respond to “changing consumer demands.”

But this has nothing to do with what consumers want. This is policy being developed with no thought whatsoever to true consumer choice. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg would be proud!

The Chinese people do not get to choose whether they get to buy low-cost ractopamine pork or higher-cost ractopamine-free pork. I’m pretty sure there’d be a few million of them choose the cheaper option.

So Smithfield is NOT providing what consumers want. This has nothing to do with consumers. This is all about trade barriers, anti-modern-farming movements, and big companies apologizing for using technologies that allow us to feed the world’s population.

Should Smithfield be free to do what they are doing? Absolutely. But we must ensure that our own government does not pass legislation or make regulations outlawing the use of ractopamine here in the US, “in the interest of protecting our export markets.”

Let producers here in the US compete. If Smithfield wants to produce more expensive pork and submit themselves to auditing by people who know nothing about producing, that should be up to them. Another company might just decide to continue to produce cheaper pork for me and my family and the millions in the world like me.

Demand for pork from pigs fed ractopamine is huge. But I’m certain that when even the elitists who rail against food technology are hungry, they will be happy to eat GM-corn, ractopamine-treated pork, and HGP-treated beef.

Governments benevolently deciding on behalf of their citizens what is good for them never seems to last very long.

I’m a bit turned off going to New York City, knowing that I can’t get a 44-ounce soft drink to share with my kids. And I certainly won’t be journeying to China for their extra-safe pork, thank you very much.

I’ll take my chances right here in the dangerously (relatively) free middle part of the USA.


I love ag.  But what happens when companies stop spending money to develop new technology because people who hate production are dominating policy-making and ensuring that new technologies are outlawed?  Will the anti-everything forces succeed in stopping inventions and innovations?  Only if we let them.


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