Chicken feet on menu at China talks
Chicken feet will be on the business menu at meetings between Northern Ireland and Chinese government ministers next week as Stormont leaders strive to secure an unusual trade link.
First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness are hoping to deliver a boost for the region's poultry producers on a trip to Beijing by taking advantage of China's taste for the dish.
While the feet of the bird are disposed of as waste in Northern Ireland, in the Chinese food market they are considered a delicacy. Mr Robinson said this presented at opportunity for the region's poultry industry.
"There are parts of the chicken which would normally have been disposed of here which are very popular, indeed would be regarded as delicacies in China," he said. "So it becomes a very attractive proposition if instead of throwing things away and putting them into incineration... that you actually are able to sell them.
"Those are some of the conversations we'll have, we have had specific requests from some of our producers here in terms of getting certain things into the market in China which we will take up when we are there."
Ahead of the visit to the Far East, where they will meet with China's vice premier Ms Liu Yandong as well as the ministers for education, commerce and foreign relations, Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness have also defended the use of such foreign trips to promote trade.
They have been subject to criticism for the cost of the ventures, with questions being asked of the use of business class travel and high rated accommodation. Earlier this month Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness revealed that the bill for seven foreign trips last year was more than £350,000.
Mr McGuinness said he would prefer to be at home with his family than flying overseas, but said it was part of his role in government.
"I'd rather stay at home any day," he said. "But this is our job, people expect this within the business community, to support them, they are out there in numbers and if they are telling us it is of value for them (for us) to be there, then I think we have a duty and responsibility to give them as much support as we possibly can."
Mr Robinson rejected the claims that he and his colleague were on "junkets or jollies". He said: "All you see is airports and hotels and government buildings and business premises."