The US Agriculture Secretary spent an entire meeting with MPs talking about how he was going to get chlorinated chicken into the UK market, according to Neil Parish, chair of the Efra select committee.
Mr Parish revealed Sonny Perdue’s obsession with cracking the British poultry market at a London Brexit conference jointly hosted by the NFU and a range of other European farming groups last week (October 25).
The meeting between Mr Perdue and the Efra select committee took place in October last year.
Mr Parish said: “He came to see us and he talked all the time about how he was going to get chlorinated chicken into the British market after we leave the EU and when we have a trade deal.
“That was an interesting conversation, because this chicken is perfectly safe to eat, but of course they [US farmers] use up to five times as many antibiotics through producing the chicken.
“The welfare standards and the environmental standards are a lot lower, the populations are much denser and then they whack them with chlorine to make sure they are safe to eat.
“You could not actually stop that poultry coming in from a food safety point of view. It has to be a more complex argument over welfare.”
Defra Secretary Michael Gove has previously vowed chlorinated chicken will enter the UK ‘over my dead body’, but Mr Parish warned ‘his body might be dead’ when any deal is done with the US.
“We have got to remember through everything we do that politics moves on and different people will be in place,” Mr Parish added.
Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council (BPC), told Farmers Guardian Mr Perdue was not the first US representative to express a desire to access the UK market.
“This is a sorry state of affairs, but it does give us the opportunity to think about what we actually want our standards to be,” he said.
“We know our welfare legislation is miles ahead of US welfare legislation. The consumer should have a choice, but we need to ensure they are making that choice based on all the relevant information.
“We need to have a discussion about whether consumer choice compromises animal welfare or employment rights.”