American chickens covered in chlorine have become a hot-button Brexit issue in Britain

KFC has just scrapped its “finger lickin’ good” catchphrase—and appetite for cheap American chicken isn’t much better across the pond, where U.S. fowls are ruffling feathers. As a contentious post-Brexit agricultural bill makes its way through British parliament, the country has fixated on the possibility of importing U.S. chickens, raised in such unhygienic conditions that they have to be washed in chlorine before they’re sold to consumers. Will Brits be forced to eat chlorinated U.S. chicken? It’s a question that’s dividing the nation.

Agriculture Bill 2019-21 came into existence as Britain continues to find new trading partners after it exited the European Union. Because of Brexit, the island has had to leave the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which sets relatively high standards for animal welfare as a key stipulation for European farmers to receive income support from the government. The EU makes these direct payments to farmers to ensure Europe’s food security by making farming a worthwhile industry (farmers make 40% less than workers in non-agricultural sectors).

As an alternative to the EU, Britain has looked into increasing trade with the U.S., an endeavor welcomed by President Trump, who slavered over “a very big trade deal.” But, the U.S. has a comparative lack of welfare standards, and uses an array of hormones, antibiotics, and chemicals—such as chlorine washes for chicken. British MPs defeated an amendment, by 337 votes to 251, that aimed to protect hygiene and welfare standards as part of a framework for post-Brexit deals.


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