Smithfield says it will meet China’s deadline on pork

China wants third-party verification that
imports are free of the additive that promotes lean muscle growth

Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s largest pork processor, said Feb. 21 it will be able to supply pork that is free of the feed additive ractopamine in time to meet a March 1 deadline by China.

China, the world’s largest pork consumer and the third-largest market for U.S. pork with sales of over $800 million last year, wants pork from the United States to be verified by a third party from March 1 to be free of ractopamine, an additive that promotes lean muscle growth.

Russia, which imported $550 million worth of U.S. beef, pork and turkey last year, has banned imports of meat from the United States due to the presence of the food additive.

Smithfield said in a statement that it is in the final stages of converting its plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, the world’s largest pork-processing facility, to be ready to meet China’s new requirement before the March 1 deadline.

Smithfield also said its plant in Clinton, North Carolina, has been producing pork free of ractopamine since last year and has regularly shipped product from there since then.

“As the largest hog producer in the world, Smithfield is uniquely positioned to deliver differentiated products to meet customer specifications — both domestically and abroad,” C. Larry Pope, the company’s chief executive and president, said in the statement.

The two North Carolina plants combined are expected to supply the market with more than 43,000 ractopamine-free hogs per day.

Hogs will come from company-owned farms as well as contracted producers and will be fed from feed mills that do not contain ractopamine, Smithfield said.

China’s new requirement comes even though there have been no recent reported findings of the feed additive in any pork from the United States, stirring speculation among industry analysts that the move stems from a political agenda or is designed to protect China’s pork industry.

Officials from China’s quarantine bureau, which oversees the safety of food imports, declined to comment earlier in the week. A spokesman said the country’s Commerce Ministry was unaware of the move.

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