Who’s afraid of the big, bad pig? Government officials, apparently, and state lawmakers who want to stop or at least slow the purchase of pork giant Smithfield Foods by a Chinese company.
But the fact is that existing food safety regulations, and the free market, will ensure that Americans continue to get abundant and safe pork products on their tables.
Shuanghui International announced last month it intends to purchase Smithfield, the nation’s largest pork producer, for $4.7 billion. That announcement was met with suspicion by some politicians and government agencies.
“The fate of a Chinese company’s controversial $4.7 billion purchase of U.S. pork giant Smithfield Foods could rest in the hands of a secretive and powerful government panel little known outside of the nation’s capital,” USA Today reported on Sunday. “The proposed takeover announced last month of Virginia-based Smithfield, the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer, by China’s Shuanghui International Holdings has thrust the government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) into the spotlight, highlighting the growing concern about U.S. companies being purchased by foreign entities.”
What’s more, some states could stand in the way of the sale.
“Decades-old laws barring foreign ownership of farmland in Iowa, Missouri and at least three other Midwest states may complicate Shuanghui International’s $4.7 billion planned purchase,” Reuters reports.
That news agency added, “A few politicians have raised concerns about food safety, and farmers groups have expressed worries about consolidation and potential damage to small farmers.”
But the panic is unnecessary. The sale is nothing to worry about.
For one thing, Smithfield is producing more pork than we can eat, despite our best efforts. The move is more an expansion than a sale.
“The company said it had grown about as big as it could in the mature U.S. market, and a merger with Shuanghui would give it greater access to millions of consumers who are eating more meat in China, South Korea, Japan and other Asian countries,” USA Today explains.
Second, safety measures already in place will still apply to everything the company does. All meat produced in America — regardless of how the shareholders’ names are spelled — is inspected and held to rigorous standards. That won’t change.
(In fact, the quality of American-grown meat is what attracted Shuanghui investors, one of their representatives said.)
Finally, free markets work. If Smithfield, under its new umbrella corporation, fails to produce enough pork to satisfy American cravings, other producers will rush to fill that gap.
But that won’t happen, because of market forces.
“People have this belief that everything in America is made in China,” Smithfield CEO Larry Pope remarked. “Open your refrigerator door, look inside. Nothing in there is made in China, because American agriculture is the most competitive and efficient in the world. This is one place America can absolutely compete.”
Our pork supplies are safe. Let the markets work.