China poultry factory w battery workers

Article in UK's Daily Mail, on a huge chicken processing factory in northeast China - worth visiting the page just to see the photo, with workers arrayed as if in a movie like Metropolis. Includes:

The scene is awe-inspiring and deeply disturbing. Hundreds, if not thousands, of figures stretch into the distance until they are just a blur of humanity, indistinguishable in their face masks and uniform pink overalls, blue aprons and white rubber boots. Each anonymous worker — hunched over his or her identical task — is equipped with a knife, a weighing machine and a tray for chicken parts. They are evenly spaced along row upon row of conveyor belts under brilliant strip lighting in a shed the size of several aircraft hangers.

This is the inside of the Jilin Deda factory, situated on Road 102 in Dehui City, China. It is one of the largest poultry-processing plants in the world, and 375,000 chickens are slaughtered, plucked, dismembered and packaged here each working day. That is 100 million birds every year, and the plant's speciality, in the unappetising jargon of the meat industry, is the production of "frozen bone-in and boneless chicken parts". Most of the produce from the bird carcasses hanging on the hooks on the right of the photograph is consumed on the domestic market. But chicken meat 'processed' in this shed is exported to 20 other countries, including Switzerland, Germany, South Africa, Russia and Japan. ...

But while it generates £6 million annual profit for its owners — a joint venture partnership between the Chinese authorities and a Thai food-processing company — and its executives earn Western-style salaries and bonuses, the Deda workers you can see here are paid the equivalent of £31 a month, the region's minimum salary. This compares very poorly even with the £673 average annual income for Jilin as a whole, which is itself less than half the figure earned on average by the citizens of China's capital, Beijing. ...

With such a ready and voracious demand from the urban masses, the chickens you see being prepared for sale were 'intensively farmed'. This means they were reared in factory-style conditions. Animal rights activists have long expressed their opposition to the way in which southeast Asia's giant poultry-processing operations are run. But in the past two years that concern has been shared by some within the medical profession, as the bird flu strain H5N1 spread across Asia into Europe, amid fears of a human pandemic. Three south-east Asian poultry workers have died in the outbreak. Some experts have blamed it on the poor hygiene of intensive poultry farming methods employed in China and neighbouring countries. For the workers at Jilin Deda, however, there is little alternative. Theirs is a poor backwater and foreign investors go there only because the labour is so cheap. ...

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