Editorial March 2011 Issue

Bringing It All Back Home

My husband has kind of an obscure occupation. He’s a steel detailer; he creates detailed drawings of structural steel pieces for companies that fabricate the pieces and erect buildings out of them. His father learned the trade as a young man in the 1950s, and, early on, practiced his profession in a shirt and tie in the highrise offices of titans of the American steel industry. Late in his career, as an independent contractor for smaller steel fabrication companies, my father-in-law worked at a drafting table in his home and sent his drawings – in the form of thick, heavy rolls of paper – to his clients via FedEx. It was during this phase of his career that he taught the trade to my husband, who, today, uses a home computer to create the “drawings” and send them instantaneously to his clients via email.

Nancy Kerns

The world is changing. I get it.

Sometimes it feels as if it’s changing far too quickly. My husband often receives email messages from people in India and China, offering to do his job for less money. These messages suggest that he could make a good living just by sharing his contracts with workers who will earn less than he does. If he finds the jobs and shares them, the emails hint, he won’t have to “work” at all.

But my husband likes his work, and these emails aggravate him no end.

I received an email this morning, forwarded from a friend who manages a pet food company. I gather that my friend is feeling just like my husband. “Dear Sir or Madam,” said the email. “We have a new freeze drying factory, Tianjin Ranova Petfood, in Tianjin, China. Do you have time to visit us? We got ISO 9001 and ISO 22000 (HACCP) certified. Please see the attached pictures of freeze dried Pet Treats and prices. The prices have already included costs for irradiation. Are you interested in these products?

I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Thank you and best regards.”

I wrote back to my friend, joking about how lucky she is to have such a good opportunity to buy irradiated pet treats from China! It was gallows laughter, though. She responded gloomily, “I get these emails daily. How many U.S. companies are already selling these treats? And then my clients complain because ours are too expensive!”

I never studied business. But I’ll never understand how common food ingredients can be shipped halfway across the planet and sold for half the price of domestically grown and processed ingredients. It certainly begs the question of the quality, freshness, and purity  of the product.

I know what kind of products my friend’s company sells. They are top of the line. She can tell you the provenance of every piece of meat in her plant. But will her business survive this sort of pressure? And has the maker of your dog’s food and treats resisted it?

Comments (3)

I agree with you. no Chinese garbage for me or my favorite friend

Posted by: John T | November 19, 2013 9:13 PM    Report this comment

You have to be really careful with the labels. There is a popular brand of dog treats that SOUNDS like it's American-made: "manufactured in American-owned facilities." But if you read the really fine print at the bottom it says "MADE IN CHINA". Some of my friends think I am too picky, but I have a 10 year old mixed breed that can still keep up with the young dogs at the park because I am careful of what she eats.

Posted by: CAROLYN E S | June 6, 2011 2:44 PM    Report this comment

I agree, if price is your only consideration then don't be surprised when you find out what your money actually purchased. I buy top quality food for my family and that includes our dogs, horses, and chickens. I actively look at every label that we consider for purchase and will not buy Chinese produced food stuffs. Even our oriental food purchases are from non-China sources. If you are concerned about American jobs going overseas, then look at where the products you purchase are made and try to buy USA made products, especially when they cost more.

Posted by: Dave M | April 26, 2011 11:56 AM    Report this comment

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