China produces and consumes the most pork in the world, and now its growing middle class is demanding higher food quality. Experts at the European Union Pork Forum recently held in Hong Kong, said China could learn from the EU.
Experts say most consumers around the world prefer meat produced domestically, but China – the world’s largest pork consumer and producer—is an exception.
China has imported more than 1 million tons of pork this year, twice the amount of pork imported in 2014. And the largest pig-slaughtering company in the world, the Danish Crown, is courting China’s surging middle class with the appeal of food safety.
“Our biggest advantage in China I would say is food safety and traceability. This year our volume has increased by 50 percent,” said Niels Knudsen, China Branch VP of Danish Crown Group.
Production capacity is another driving force. China’s Meat Association says by 2020 China will have to import 10 million tons of pork to meet demand. The European Union’s food industries are seeing this as an opportunity to introduce EU’s products and standards to China.
Denmark is the world’s largest pork exporter. Each pig has an identity card that can be used to trace the product along every step of the supply chain. The use of antibiotics in Denmark’s meat industry is among the lowest in the world.
“One thing you could do in China is break the chain between the description and the sale of antibiotics. This is a very successful element of our strategy in bringing down the use of anti-biotics,” said Jens Ring, chief trade advisor of Danish Agriculture & Food Council.
In the past decade, the reputation of China’s food industry has been contaminated by the abuses of antibiotics, hormones and chemicals. Industry insiders says this is a systematic problem.
“Unlike Europe, in China, most farmers are still very scattered and operate on a small scale. We have very strict laws, but the problem is implementation. It’s very hard for governments to monitor all the farmers and companies. We can’t just replicate Europe or America’s experience in improving our food safety,” said Hu Ying, head of International Cooperation of China Meat Association.
Experts say that foreign slaughter houses lining up to enter the Chinese market could push their Chinese counterparts to improve the quality of their pork.