Thursday, September 17, 2009

Winner, winner, chicken feet dinner

There's always a trade war looming somewhere, and the latest has China trying to slap us back for a tariff on imported tires by imposing a tax on imported chicken meat.

Basically, although I do eat it, I try not think "chicken meat." When I do think chicken meat, I think those big, plumped up, hormone crazed, size of a small turkey chicken breasts, stripped of all skin, bone, and fat. (And if I took my thinking one step further, I'd be in the horror show of the chicken ranch gulag...so I won't go there. I prefer, instead, to think of free range chickens like Foghorn Leghorn and Chicken Little, enjoying life in the wide open spaces, plucking for fat juicy warms and nibbling on succulent grass. Sure, in the case of Chicken Little there are side worries about the sky falling, but surely they pale when compared to factory chickens who have all sorts of grim torture to worry about.)

The one thing I don't think of when I think chicken meat is chicken feet.

But, apparently, chicken feet (along with wings - a chicken part I don't find worth the effort) are what the Chinese like to import.

About half of the chicken parts sold to China are wings and feet, which are worth only a few cents a pound in the United States. As delicacies in China, they fetch 60 cents to 80 cents a pound, a price that no other foreign market comes close to matching, according to industry experts.

We're not talking chicken feed here, either. Chicken exports are a $4.34B business, and China's piece of the action is worth $854 million. (Source for info and quoted material here: NY Times.)

Our chicken feet are particularly desirable because they're big and juicy. (Can't expect scrawny little chicken feet to hold up all those outsized breasts, can you?) In the word of a poultry economist - and how's that for a job -  American chicken feet are practically "paws." (I guess this is one upside to the American obesity epidemic.)

We may no longer rule the roost in cars, steel, appliances - and all the other sorts of goods durable and non-durable that were Made in the U.S.A.  But - hallelujah! - "the United States is by far the world’s leading supplier of king-size chicken feet."

We're Number One!  We're Number One! (U.S.A.   U.S.A.) My non-chicken breast swells with pride.

I'm just as happy we're exporting them. Frankly, the idea of eating chicken feet makes me a bit peckish. Do you know where those feet were standing when those bulky breasts had a leg or two to stand on? At least those chicken breasts are a few inches away from the worst of the action on the factory floor. Chicken feet? Ewwww!

Maybe I'm missing something, but chicken feet really don't appeal to me. (When I was a kid, my father sometimes bought a bottle of pickled pigs feet, which appealed to me even less. I believe that "trotters" were on the menu of his father's saloon, and that he'd eaten them as a kid.)

My husband and I used to dine occasionally at a large and dumpy restaurant in Boston's Chinatown. I can't remember the restaurant's name - it's out of business -  but most of the people who ate there were Chinese, so we figured they knew something - and the food was pretty good.

One time, I asked our waiter what a menu item was and he recoiled and shook his head at me. "Chinese people only," he said.

Well, he didn't have to tell me twice, but I did wonder at the time just what the mystery meat was. Maybe it was chicken feet.

There's more to the trade war than tires and chicken feet, of course.

Also on or off the table is processed chicken. Apparently - who knew? - we send our chickens off to China to be cooked, canned, and frozen.

Now, am I crazy, or does it not seem to make a lot of sense to send a puffed up chicken breast off to China so that someone can parboil it, seal it in a jar, and send it back here?

Perhaps I should ask the poultry economist about this. Sounds like just the sort of thing he might know about.

Meanwhile, tonight I eat vegetarian.

1 comment:

jay said...

Chicken feet are great - tasty, fall off the bone meat. You should try them.

I recall one client lunch I had in Hong Kong, where I was hosting a local Chinese businessman. I ordered chicken feet (thinking he would like them) and was happily chowing down when he made a face and said, "I don't know how you can eat that stuff!"