The U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States will allow the sale of Smithfield Foods to a Chinese company, Shuanghui International. Smithfield is already the world's largest pork producer and processor, with facilities in 26 U.S. states, including the largest slaughterhouse and meat-processing plant in the world in Tar Heel, N.C.
Smithfield also operates in Mexico and 10 European countries, with a global total of more than 46,000 employees, the company says.
The sale to the Chinese company is still subject to approval from Smithfield shareholders, who are scheduled to vote on it Sept. 24, according to a Cable News Network (CNN) report. If approved, it would be the largest acquisition of a U.S. company by a Chinese buyer.
The impending sale has ignited concerns that it will give a foreign company a potentially damaging share of U.S. food supplies, especially those products produced on U.S. farms.
National Farmer's Union President Roger Johnson issued the following statement:
"The deal represents the sale of one quarter of U.S. hog processing to a quasi-state-owned Chinese enterprise and is a dangerous precedent, in terms of food security and market competition."
“We continue to urge Congress, the administration, and other decision-makers to oppose this sale," Johnson said. "Our domestic livestock markets are already largely non-competitive and foreign-backed control will only make the situation worse.”
On the same day that the Smithfield sale was cleared by the government, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it was ending a ban on processed chicken imports from China. These products can now be sold in the U.S. without a country-of-origin label, National Public Radio reported.
"Please recognize that this effort will gut food inspection rules since no U.S. inspector will be evaluating these animals for cleanliness and food safety, let alone issues of animal welfare in China," said Hyannis rancher Al Davis, a Nebraska state senator.
"Without Country of Origin Labeling, you will have no ability to buy U.S. raised products," Davis said. "If this concerns you take pen in hand and write to your representatives in Washington. It's a very important issue."