US Chicken Paw Exports to China

Chicken Economics

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Apr 14, 2012    •    915 Views

Ten chicks.

If I were teaching in Uzbekistan instead of Summit, NJ, I might have received 10 Serbian chicks as a part of my salary. According to Radio Free Europe, the Uzbek government partially paid certain teachers and doctors with chicks. Their goal was to increase domestic production of eggs, milk, other dairy products and vegetables.

Elsewhere also, chickens represent more than a meal.

During the 1990s, during a food shortage, Russia accepted massive exports of surplus dark chicken meat from the US. Still today, dark meat in Russia is called Bush legs and associated with neediness.

For U.S. chicken raisers, Chinese love of chicken paws was a life saver. As a Purdue representative explained it, U.S. consumers loved the white meat. What to do with everything else? For years, inexpensive pet food was the answer. However, when Purdue discovered that the Chinese especially loved U.S. chicken paws, suddenly, they had a money maker. Large (Purdue) chicken breasts mean juicy feet and the Chinese like juicy feet.

We’ve accounted for the breasts, dark meat and paws. What about the wings? Maybe the Super Bowl?

Our bottom line: Chicken shortages and chicken surpluses relate to international trade. Citing comparative advantage, David Ricardo (1772-1823) said that trade enables nations to optimize efficiency and thereby increase world production and well-being. For U.S. chicken producers, exporting what had been waste certainly created value. With the Uzbeks, though, payment in imported Serbian chicks rather than money is a step backwards.

Radio Free Europe and the Atlantic tell more of the Uzbekistan chicken story. For the China and Russian chicken situation, Businessweek and Freakonomics explain. And here, econlife looks at chicken wings.

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