AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
We're going to focus now on one particular change that's coming as part of this U.S.-China trade deal, the idea that U.S. will import cooked chicken from China. And joining us to talk more about it is Maria Godoy. She's editor of NPR's food blog The Salt. Welcome to the studio.
MARIA GODOY, BYLINE: Thanks, Audie.
CORNISH: So just how did this part of the deal come to be?
GODOY: So as we just heard, this chicken story is really about beef. Back in 2003, the U.S. had a case of mad cow disease. And as a result, lots of countries banned imports of U.S. beef like Mexico and South Korea, lots of countries including China. Eventually, all those countries lifted the ban on U.S. beef except for China. And that's a big deal because China has a huge and growing appetite for beef. And it's a big market that up until now U.S. beef producers have been locked out of.
Now, lots of people have seen China's refusal to lift the ban on beef as a kind of negotiating tactic. Basically, we lift the ban and you let in our chicken. So it's been going on for a while. It's gone to the World Trade Organization. And now finally there's a deal. And beef producers here are really happy.
CORNISH: OK. But again, this is now about chicken.
CORNISH: And what's the difference between, like, the cooked issue versus raw?
GODOY: That's a really good question. So what we're talking about here are imports of cooked chicken from China of chicken that was born and raised in China. And it really goes to concerns about avian flu. China has had many, many outbreaks of avian flu. And there are concerns that if you brought in raw poultry from China, it could somehow contaminate American poultry processing plants and maybe even spread to U.S. flocks.
CORNISH: So which voices are raising safety concerns then about cooked chicken from China actually coming now into the U.S.?
GODOY: Well, some environmental groups have been raising concerns for a long time. This deal has been in the works really on and off for over a decade. And China has a pretty bad track record when it comes to food safety, stories of things like rat meat being sold as lamb. And just last December, China's own food and drug administration reported it had uncovered half a million cases of food safety violations just in the first three quarters of 2016.
So the USDA has gone over there and inspected plants that would process the chicken. They say they're OK. And in recent months, U.S. inspectors have gone over to train their Chinese counterparts in food safety.
CORNISH: That's because we also export poultry to China, right? I mean, we're in this business.
GODOY: Funny enough, we used to, but U.S. poultry producers used to send a lot of chicken feet over to China. It's a delicacy there. The market has been worth as much as $750 million a year for the U.S. poultry industry, but China banned U.S. chicken imports after the U.S. had an outbreak of avian flu in 2015. And the new announcement doesn't address that.
CORNISH: All right. So looking ahead, when can we expect these imports?
GODOY: That's a big question. Basically, we won't even have a rule on how these imports will take place until mid-July, and then it's anywhere after that.
CORNISH: That's Maria Godoy, editor of NPR's food blog The Salt. Thanks so much.
GODOY: Thank you, Audie.
(SOUNDBITE OF RJD2'S "JUNIOR")