In the world views espoused by conspiracy-mongers of the Alex Jones ilk, the biggest threat to "our freedoms" is not the Illuminati secret society, members of The Bilderberg Group, whatever "person on the inside" orchestrated 9/11, or some weird race of lizard people roaming around the sewers of downtown L.A.'s financial district. Nope. Those all pale in comparison to what will surely be the final nail in the coffin of the good ol' U. S. of A.: China.
Now, this point of view is, without a doubt, driven more by a certain level of baseless xenophobic feelings than actual "facts." But this past week, China went on a shopping spree that should even cause the most grounded among us to hesitate a bit.
Cases in point: In the past few days alone, China put the finishing touches on negotiations with Russia to buy up some of their fighter jets and bought a giant Kazakh oilfield for a whopping $5 billion dollars. But those purchases may be nothing compared to the fact that a Chinese company now owns a significant portion of America's pork supply.
Last week, Shuanghui International Holdings Limited purchased Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the U.S., for a whopping $7.1 billion. This marks the largest purchase of a U.S. company by a Chinese one thus far.
The buyout was first approved by the principal parties back in June, with the final hurdle being an investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, a government panel tasked with ... well, no doubt you could put it together from the committee's name. After a 45-day investigation, they found everything kosher (heh) with the deal (no plans of sticking their pigs with brainwashing serum, apparently), and sent it on its merry way. (The deal will not yet be finalized, it should be noted, until September 24th, when Smithfield shareholders vote one final time to allow the merger. However, all signs point to that only being a formality.)
Reaction to this news by the aforementioned conspiracists is, of course, apoplectic. But that kind of outlook is being echoed by the saner folks out there as well. For instance:
Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan and chairwoman of the committee, said in a statement: "It remains unclear what factors the committee took into account in making its decision. We still do not know if the potential impact on American food security, the transfer of taxpayer-funded innovation to a foreign competitor, or China's protectionist trade barriers were considered. It's troubling that taxpayers have received no assurances that these critical issues have been taken into account in transferring control of one of America's largest food producers to a Chinese competitor with a spotty record on food safety."
The "spotty record" that's mentioned comes from a history Shuanghui has when it comes to policing their own working environment. Back in 2011, for example, one of the company's plants was caught sticking an illegal additive into the pigs's food that would supposedly speed up muscle growth. Maybe it did, maybe it didn't, but one thing the additive definitely did do was get about 300 people horrendously sick after they ate the tainted pork products.
Which isn't to say that the upcoming sale is marking the end of an innocent mom-and-pop institution in Smithfield. They have, themselves, been on the "for shame" end over the past years, getting slapped with a $12.6 million fine for discharging slaughterhouse waste into the nearby Pagan River back in 1997, and were exposed by a Humane Society's undercover video in 2010 for using some truly disgusting tactics on their animals. But as shady as they've been in the past, at the very least, they were the devil we knew. After the transfer?
Meaning, the wisest course of action from here on out may simply be doing what you should really be doing anyway: Steer clear from all factory-farmed pork products, no matter whose name is on the lease.
Want recipes and food news emailed directly to you? Sign up for the new Food newsletter here!
TrackBack URL: http://www.kcet.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/20668