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Chicken feet cross back into China market after ban lifted
Chicken Feet.jpg
A vendor sells chicken feet, also called chicken paws, at a night market in Taipei, Taiwan. - photo by Kelsey Podo

Now that China has reopened its market to the U.S. Poultry Industry, chicken feet are scampering back to street food stands and restaurants.

Since China banned all U.S. poultry in January 2015, most of the gangly pieces of meat, also called chicken paws, have gone to rendering plants. These facilities grind up chicken parts for pet food and other usable materials. 

The poultry ban was issued because of an avian influenza outbreak in December 2014,

according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

It was enforced for nearly five years, even though the disease hasn’t appeared in the U.S. since August 2017.

Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation in Gainesville, said before the ban, China was an importer of U.S. poultry and a dominant buyer of the country’s chicken paws. He expects the change will positively impact Georgia’s poultry industry, as well as Gainesville, its poultry hub. 

“It is good news for the poultry industry,” Giles said. “We’ve been hopeful that the Chinese market would open back up.”

Georgia continues to lead the nation in broiler production, and today the $4.4 billion industry keeps its title as the state’s No. 1 commodity. 

Giles said the state represents 14-15% of national poultry broiler production, and Savannah is the nation’s leading poultry export port. 

“Georgia tends to benefit from trade progress as well or better than any other state,” he said. 

The National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation and USA Poultry and Egg Export Council applauded the poultry announcement on Nov. 14 in a collective statement.

They said the action of lifting the ban represents a significant opportunity for U.S. chicken and turkey producers. The annual value of poultry exports from the U.S. to China was $71 million for turkey and $722 million for chicken, at the industry’s peak.

Chicken paws might not be the main poultry part that floods back into China.

“Renewed access to the Chinese market could result in $1 billion annually for chicken paws alone and, due to China’s meat protein deficit as a result of African Swine Fever, there could be as much as another $1 billion of potential exports of other chicken products, including leg and breast meat,” the three groups stated in a press release. “Turkey exports could generate another $100 million in sales and poultry breeding stock at least $60 million more.”

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