- Title: CHINA: Chinese farms insist their food is safe for international athletes
- Date: 31st July 2008
- Summary: BEIJING, CHINA (JULY 30, 2008) (REUTERS) OFFICIALS SITTING AT HEAD OF BEIJING MUNICIPAL BUREAU OF AGRICULTURE PRESS CONFERENCE (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) TAO ZHIQIANG, BEIJING MUNICIPAL BUREAU OF AGRICULTURE OFFICIAL, SAYING: "Certainly, food safety is a growing concern internationally and we are constantly working hard to improve our product."
- Embargoed: 15th August 2008 13:00
- Location: China
- Country: China
- Topics: Health,Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA2UPUXYSS8V51EZ7NPS7UG1V15
- Story Text: Blue sky in Beijing's mountainous suburbs offers a welcome haven for Olympic-minded farmers. Despite a recent spate of food safety scandals in China, Olympic officials insist that homegrown produce, which passed their assessment, will be safe for Olympic athletes.
In one Olympic approved farm three million chickens are making their own contribution to environmental protection, as new green technology turns their daily manure into electricity.
The chickens, who live in air-conditioned, high security barns, also produce some of China's 'cleanest' eggs.
China's dirty air has been one of the capital's greatest headaches in the run-up to the August Games. Doing its part to improve the situation, Deqingyuan (DQY) farm is aiming to become almost entirely self sufficient by running on its own power, and its 'green' approach has earned it an Olympic contract supplying eggs to the world's athletes.
The company is determined to protect the birds from bird-flu; the chickens barns are sealed off from the outside world and monitored using close circuit television. Only quarantined personnel may enter the chicken barns, where American-bred pullets produce over one million drug-free eggs a day.
The farm sells its eggs on the promise that its chickens are fed chemical and hormone free feed.
By avoiding the cocktail of drugs usually injected into caged hens the farm says its drug-free eggs will not affect Olympic athletes' doping tests.
DQY ferments 212 tonnes of chicken manure per day into enough gas to power the entire plant. The company estimates half the gas produced will be enough to power the plant whilst the rest of the electricity can be sold on to power the national grid.
In total, the equipment can generate two megawatts of power - enough to power 2000 homes.
Site engineer Wang Jiuzhan worked in some of China's dirtiest power plants before moving to DQY's landscaped green base. Now that he has found a job in clean energy, Wang plans to move his family to live alongside the farm.
"I used to work in an coal fired generator, that was my first job.
The pollution was very bad, especially the sulphur dioxide and the acid rain.
We do not have that problem here, look at the sky, its blue. The coal plant was never this nice," he said.
DQY is the brainchild of a scientist who specialised in weapons of mass destruction and developed the ecological eggs after his retirement.
Vice President of Operations at DQY, Raymond Yeung, said the company saw a niche in the market selling high quality eggs after it carried out a food safety survey eight years ago. Along with corn, the company found more unorthodox protein sources in some of China's chicken feeds.
"That was back when DQY was a sell-out. We did a check into the market and we found people feeding chickens with crazy things, like grinding bones and getting the proteins out of it and then putting leather into the feed, that happens in some areas," he said.
DQY's eggs now command almost three quarters of the capital's growing market for branded goods and Chinese consumers are growing ever more aware of food quality and safety.
Over the past year accusations from home and abroad have charged Chinese producers with poisoning food products and even producing fake eggs.
"The government definitely has to, kind of, control the quality level. I do believe that the China government has done a lot in doing the safety part of it. I mean whether you have a good egg and how you define a good egg. It is more than just safety, its all the taste that you get, its all the other nutrients that you get. Then, you know, the branded eggs come into the picture," said Raymond Yeung.
Running a green enterprise is a costly business, says Yeung. In order to fund the costs of its energy saving plant, DQY has joined the ranks of Chinese companies in the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism.
The companies fund clean technology by selling emissions reductions credits to polluters in rich nations who exceed their own carbon emissions quotas.
DQY's environmentally friendly eggs are pioneering a new arena in green energy, it is one of the first factories in the China to burn biogas to produce power on an industrial scale.
But while the farm may go to great lengths to go green, it is also willing to go to equal lengths to make a profit. Egg-packers on the factory floor spend their days painstakingly colour-coding eggs by their shells.
According to Raymond Yeung, Chinese consummers are choosy about the colour of eggs they buy.
Whilst northern Chinese clients prefer the medium shades, says Yeung, clients in the south will instinctively buy the light brown coloured shells.
Hong Kong residents, on the other hand, tend to choose deep brown shells.
"There is no difference in flavour. I just like that one best, its just me," said Feng Shuili, one egg packer who likes lighter coloured shells.
DQY sells its eggs across China, at a price which it claims can sometimes be twice as much as unbranded eggs.
The Beijing government insists it is doing all it can to ensure that food safety standards are in place for the Games. In a media conference at the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Agriculture on Wednesday (July 30) one official, Tao Zhiqiang, said special inspection systems and surveillance were in place to monitor production.
"Certainly, food safety is a growing concern internationally and we are constantly working hard to improve our product," he said.
The farms are growing peppers, tomatoes, kale and herbs to supply 'core Olympic areas'. Although the food may not be fully organic, the farm manager says, it is far enough from Beijing to be unaffected by the cities notorious pollution.
The Bureau of Agriculture officials say many the foods supplied during the Games will be grown locally, augmented by imports supplied by U.S. meat producer Tyson Foods Inc. However some Olympic teams may still be bringing their own supplies of food.
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