Quantcast

Why the UK Is Wary of American 'Chlorinated Chicken'

Popular
Packs of 'Brexit Selection Freshly Chlorinated Chicken' sit on display at 'Costupper' Brexit Minimart pop-up store, set up by the People's Vote campaign group, to demonstrate predicted price rises and supply problems in south London, United Kingdom on Nov. 23, 2018. Tayfun Salci / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

By Dan Nosowitz

A hot-button issue in the UK focuses on something most Americans don't even know about: a particular method of disinfecting raw poultry.


In the UK, "chlorine-washed chicken" has become a shorthand for the excesses of American agribusiness; Prime Minister Boris Johnson has even used it as an insult for his political foes. Much of the U.S.' chicken is disinfected with a strong solution of chlorine, a quick and effective way of killing a lot of bacteria. Chlorine treatments have been banned in the UK since 1997, due to an European Union-wide ban on the practice, but chlorine-treated chicken is back in the news in the UK.

Due to the UK's pending exit from the European Union (EU), many of the union's laws will be reconsidered there, and either maintained or cast aside. The UK, essentially, will have the option to start importing American chicken for the first time in decades, at least at a large volume. Allowing chicken processed in this way into the UK is a very controversial topic there. The British media has been accused of being "obsessed" with the issue; British publications have run dozens of stories about what American chlorine-treated chicken is.

The U.S. has not let this go unnoticed. BuzzFeed News got ahold of a document laying out the American government's plans to get its chicken into the UK. The document proposes a $100,000 press junket for "influential" British journalists to tour American farms — presumably a carefully selected array of those farms — in order to change the dialogue about this chlorinated chicken. The document is largely focused on fighting "misconceptions" about American agribusiness, including such topics as GMOs, animal welfare and factory farming.

Using a chlorine solution to disinfect chickens is not, according to many studies, particularly unsafe. Even European agencies have found that chlorine is an effective way to kill bacteria. The EU didn't ban it because it doesn't work; they banned it because it works too well. Essentially, the EU's objection to the method is that it is a sledgehammer method used to cover up the atrocities in much of the American poultry industry: tiny spaces, wildly overbred birds that have difficulty standing up, and mass production that results in heavily soiled, contaminated birds. Chlorine, by the EU's way of thinking, encourages such bad behavior. After all, why bother to treat your birds well, when it's expensive and can all be cleaned off by a 50-parts-per-million chlorine solution?

Obviously, securing access to the UK as an export market would be a huge victory for the American poultry industry. The U.S. produced more than nine billion broiler chickens — those raised for meat consumption — in 2018, a value of more than $31 billion. Chicken is now the most popular meat in the UK, and American chicken producers would surely love to ignore their antitrust issues and sell some chicken to a huge new market.

The British concern about the provenance of American chicken, though, is unlikely to be healed with a luxury press tour for a select group of journalists.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Scanning electron micrograph of Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague, on proventricular spines of a Xenopsylla cheopis flea. NIAID / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A middle-aged married couple in China was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease similar to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the middle ages, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Milk made from almonds, oats and coconut are among the healthiest alternatives to cow's milk. triocean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.

Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Greta Thunberg stands aboard the catamaran La Vagabonde as she sets sail to Europe in Hampton, Virginia, on Nov. 13. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist whose weekly school strikes have spurred global demonstrations, has cut short her tour of the Americas and set sail for Europe to attend COP25 in Madrid next month, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
The Lake Delhi Dam in Iowa failed in 2010. VCU Capital News Service / Josh deBerge / FEMA

At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.

Read More Show Less

By Sabrina Kessler

Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By Alex Robinson

Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.

The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.

Read More Show Less
People navigate snow-covered sidewalks in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Nov. 11 in Chicago. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Temperatures plunged rapidly across the U.S. this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
A general view of the flooded St. Mark's Square after an exceptional overnight "Alta Acqua" high tide water level, on Nov. 13 in Venice. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP / Getty Images

Two people have died as Venice has been inundated by the worst flooding it has seen in more than 50 years, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less