City's Beef With A Poultry Processor

Katy Grimes: The city of Sacramento is quickly on its way to infringing on the life, liberty and property rights of yet another business and land owner.

New American Poultry, a family owned Sacramento poultry processor with 30 employees, has outgrown the plant it has used for the last 10 years – and what a nice problem to have.

Trying to plan ahead, the owner, Harry Cheung, purchased a piece of land in an industrial area of the city. But when he got to the Sacramento planning commission for plan approval, Cheung found out that not everyone was enamored of his business.

Planning to relocate to the industrial, heavy commercial area of Florin-Perkins Road, Cheung discovered that his new neighbor, the Sacramento SPCA, has a certain distaste for the poultry processor.

“Having an organization that has a mission of saving animals next to a business that kills them is just not a good fit,” said SPCA director Rick Johnson, reported in the Sacramento Bee today.

And oddly, earlier this week, the Sacramento planning commission just couldn’t muster enough votes to approve Cheung’s plan.

What will happen to the 30 New American Poultry employees, or the additional 25 employees Cheung planned to hire?

The SPCA organized a petition, and got other businesses in the area circulate it amongst employees, which was then presented to the planning commissioners at the March 10 meeting. With a final 5-3 vote, the planning commission claimed it passed Cheung’s plan, but bylaws require six “yes” votes, leaving Cheung unable to secure his special-use permit, reported city planner Greg Bitter.

What a load of chicken poop.

New American Poultry provides chickens “for tens of thousands of people,” according to Cheung, and is one of very few in the state to be granted a “Chinese Buddhist religious exemption” by the USDA, allowing the heads and feet of slaughtered birds to remain intact. USDA inspectors appear at the Broadway plant daily, Cheung said, “watching our every move.”

The USDA exemption code for ready-to-cook poultry, reads, “religious exemptions based on religious dietary laws, such as Buddhist, Chinese Confucian, Halal, and Kosher, on certain types of poultry will change certain defect criteria.”

With the push for more urban gardening and raising small animals for food in downtown backyards, the city planning department is not only out-of-touch, they are bending to the will of some of the more extreme animal activists.

I’m an animal lover. And my four rescue cats and two dogs would agree. But loving animals shouldn’t have anything to do with infringing on a food processing business. Just because some people don’t eat animal meat and rescue animals, doesn’t give them the right to trample on the property and business rights of others.

Urban farming representatives say that far too many people today don’t know where food comes from. Children think that meat comes in little cellophane packages from the grocery store, and don’t make the connection of cows to hamburger, pork chops to pigs, or Kentucky Fried Chicken to feathered birds.

The New American Poultry Company is said to be a unique chicken processor, with an impeccable facility, and uses a safe, sane and humane processing technique.

Cheung said he would appeal the planning department’s decision to the City Council — and he should. The small business owner has successfully grown his business. And, the new property is properly zoned for his business.

But the question remains – How can the city justify its denial of his plans because a neighbor has taken offense to the nature of his business because he processes chickens for human consumption?

With the number of business closures in Sacramento, as well as the growing numbers of businesses moving out of the state, anyone but a statist would see that encouraging New American Poultry to expand is good for everyone – the poultry processor operates within the laws, and the business is growing and plans to employ 55 people from the area.

What’s the beef?

Did the planning commissioners ever consider the existing 30 people employed by the poultry processor (and the additional 25 he plans to hire), or the hefty property taxes, employment and sales taxes Mr. Cheung will pay at his new property — or the tens of thousands of people who count on Mr. Cheung’s chickens for food?

As I have written many times before, most of the local people in positions of authority are small thinkers, obsessed and mired in emotional minutia. City and county commissioners exercise almost dictatorial powers over property owners, without any consideration of constitutional rights, or even of the good a thriving business does for the entire city.

Instead, a few loudmouth extremists – the violent minority –  seem to hold sway over a small business owner who pays his own way, and supports 55 other Sacramento families. I hope Cheung fights the city. I’ll help him… and I don’t even eat meat. But, this ‘beef’ is not about meat.

MAR. 12, 2011

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