Police in Nanning have confiscated twenty tons of smuggled chicken feet including some with labels from 1967, according to Shanghai Daily. Some are doubtful that the feet, found in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of southern China, are really that old: user Offbeat China noted that “Many said it was a rumor….because even in China, one had to pay for storage.” In any case, Shanghai Daily reports, the international chicken feet trade is highly lucrative, and often illegal (via Adam Minter, who also posted a photo of an allegedly Cultural Revolution-era foot):
According to Xinhua, there is a massive trade in chicken feet and other animal parts from foreign countries, including the United States and the UK, to Chinese cities because these animal parts are popular in China but regarded as waste in most foreign countries. Some trade is legitimate, Xinhua said, but much of it is illegal, with smugglers hiding frozen animal parts among fruit or lumber destined for China.
Over the past year, frontier police in Guangxi said they had cracked seven major smuggling cases involving chicken feet with the total value of over 20 million yuan (US$3.26 million).
Police official Li Jianmin told Xinhua that most of the frozen chicken feet was of poor quality but smugglers would soak them in hydrogen dioxide or bleaching powder to make the feet look whiter and bigger. [Source]
The Belfast Telegraph reports that ministers of the Government of Northern Ireland discussed exporting unwanted chicken feet to China during a trip to Beijing earlier this summer:
While the feet of the bird are disposed of as waste in Northern Ireland, in the Chinese food market they are considered a delicacy. Mr Robinson said this presented at opportunity for the region’s poultry industry.
“There are parts of the chicken which would normally have been disposed of here which are very popular, indeed would be regarded as delicacies in China,” he said. “So it becomes a very attractive proposition if instead of throwing things away and putting them into incineration… that you actually are able to sell them.
“Those are some of the conversations we’ll have, we have had specific requests from some of our producers here in terms of getting certain things into the market in China which we will take up when we are there.” [Source]
Read more about food safety via CDT.