All politics is local, and so is this local food story.
It’s a time of much fear and confusion in the State of California. Only last year, we were reading stories about local jurisdictions changing their zoning laws to allow raising a few chickens in the backyard. It was called cultural awareness, California style.
Now comes Chinese American Live Poultry, sometimes called CAL Poultry, in the Los Angeles County City of Rosemead. It slaughters free-range, no antibiotic, no hormone birds approved by the United States Department of Agriculture for a flat fee of $10.50 per bird. Big chickens sell by the pound.
It’s not getting much in the way of cultural awareness in the city of just under 60,000.
CAL Poultry has been at its Rosemead location since 1991. The city has since banned slaughterhouses.
Now, in the words of one of its planning commissioners, some in the city want to “go for the throat” of the business owned by Quan and Dana Phu.
The Rosemead Planning Commission has voted 4-0 to close Chinese American Live Poultry inside of a year. They voted to put CAL Poultry on the chopping block much quicker than the three-year period suggested by the city staff.
One planning commissioner abstained from the vote because she felt closing down the business within a year was too harsh.
Losing such immediate access to farm-fresh whole birds will hurt the Asian-American community in Rosemead and surrounding LA County, according to Dana Phu. The 39-year old business owner charges the planning commission does not understand “our culture, our need and our people in the community.”
CAL Poultry neighbors have complained for years about the odor emitting from the chicken slaughterhouse. The city in the past has hit the company with code infractions, mostly involving discharge and signage.
With a growing Asian-American population in suburban areas like Rosemead, the Phus give the community a convenient option to driving to Chinatown in the City of Los Angeles. Holidays like the Lunar New Year are times when Asian families want a fresh whole bird, as it is said to represent family unity.
It was just a year ago, in November 2008, that the Planning Commission voted 5-0 to allow CAL Poultry to install a new filtration system to mitigate the odor. The Rosemead City Council approved the filtration system by a narrower 3-2 vote.
Contributions by the Phus in city elections became an issue. Then, Rosemead’s mayor, who is white, sent out postcards in a campaign against the slaughterhouse using “Asian” flu as a scare tactic.
Now the fate of the Chinese American Live Poultry, which employs 15 people, is in the hands of the Rosemead City Council, which will make a decision in January.
Until then, hundreds of customers a day will be lining up to order ducks, hens, geese quail and Vikon chickens.