Thanks to a high demand for ethanol, the price of corn has been rising steadily in the United States, resulting in expensive dinners for the hungry chickens of the land. While that's great news for corn farmers, chicken companies are scrambling to survive. Thankfully, they seem to have been saved by trading the most unlikely part of the chicken - the feet.
Scratchy, yellow and jellylike, chicken feet in the United States are practically worthless, usually only good enough for being ground into animal food. In many Asian countries, however, a touch of chili and soy sauce turns them into a local delicacy. About 20 years ago, chicken farmers began to take advantage of this difference in palates, named them 'phoenix talons' and started to export them to China, where they fetch far higher prices than they would anywhere else in the world. But while it started as a niche product, the market for chicken feet grew in volume until it made up a full 50% of American chicken exports to China.
According to Carlos Ayala of Perdue Farms, which exports over a billion scraggly talons a year, "It (the chicken paw) has turned out to be one of the most profitable items that we have. In fact there’s a lot of chicken companies that would be out of business if it wasn’t for the chicken paws."
Image: Charles Fred via Creative Commons