April 19, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Pork Producer Acquisition Raises Questions on Hill

Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images File Photo
Some have raised concerns that the sale of Smithfield pork to one of China’s biggest meat processors will affect the quality of its product and hurt U.S. pork producers.

The NFU and a coalition of non-farm organizations, such as Food & Water Watch, say the proposed Smithfield sale disturbs them because it represents a slow outsourcing of U.S. ownership of basic food production. In 2007, JBS S.A., Brazil’s largest beef processor, bought Swift & Co., to become the largest beef processor in the world.

Goule said if the sale goes through “the largest beef processor in the United States will be owned by Brazil and the largest pork producer and processor is going to be owned by China.”

But big is not always bad, said Dermot Hayes, an Iowa State University agricultural economist. Hayes said he views the Smithfield sale as having the potential to open up more markets and opportunities for individual pork producers in the United States.

“I see this an opportunity for U.S. pork to move to China, which takes Smithfield pork off the U.S. market and creates opportunities for other U.S. producers to expand to fill that vacuum,” Hayes said.

Chinese pork production fluctuates frequently, which is one reason Shuanghui is interested in Smithfield’s operations that keep production flowing at an even pace, Hayes said.

The Chinese company also may be interested in Smithfield because it produces its food in compliance with U.S. food safety regulations. Smithfield generally has a good reputation on that score, although the company recalled 38,000 pounds of sausage in February because of the possible presence of small pieces of plastic, possibly from gloves.

Hayes agreed with critics that China’s track record on food safety is “terrible. That’s one of the reasons they want to own Smithfield. It would be the silliest thing in the world for them to reduce the quality of that pork.”

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