Study details ways U.S. pork can help fill China’s immediate protein gap

A new report from the National Pork Board digs into the growing protein needs facing China in the short- and long-term, and how U.S. pork can position itself to meet that demand. The report, Pork 2040: China Market Assessment, also looks at the impact of African swine fever (ASF) on CHina’s short- and long-term protein needs and how the Chinese pork industry will change as a result.

The research study outlines critical insights to help U.S. pork position the industry for long-term success in the Chinese market.

“Pork is a critical part of the Chinese diet with an annual per capita consumption of nearly 88 pounds per person (cwe),” said Norman Bessac, vice president of international marketing for the Pork Checkoff. “The report will help exporters position the U.S. as the supplier of choice, thereby building value for all U.S. pork producers.”

With China’s massive appetite for pork, it has a significant influence on the price and availability of pork worldwide, according to Rupert Claxton, meat director with Gira, the consulting firm that compiled the report. 

According to the report, pork consumption in China peaked in 2014 and will continue to see a slow decline as the Chinese population grows to its highest level in 2030.

As the availability of fish, chicken and beef increases along with increased disposable income, consumers will look to diversify center-of-the-plate options.

“The research showed that consumers in China are primarily focused on food safety, which has a poor track record in China,” Claxton said. “But Chinese consumers have a keen growing interest in how pork impacts human health and nutrition.”

ASF to Accelerate Change

The research was started before the outbreak of ASF, but it offers insights into how it will accelerate changes in Chinese pork production. 

According to the study, China’s pork production structure has been changing since 2014. The Chinese government has been improving food quality and safety while reducing pork production’s environmental impact.

“However, before the outbreak of ASF, Chinese pork production was still heavily reliant on backyard and semi-formal breeding and processing systems that have driven production growth,” Claxton said.

“The farms will struggle to meet new biosecurity requirements that are necessary to contain the disease,” Claxton said. “Pig production from these farms may become insignificant as early as 2025.” The study showed:

  • In the near-term, China is working aggressively to create one of the world’s largest-scale and most efficient pig supply chains.
  • Farms will modernize and become much larger, requiring significant private investment.
  • Harvest facilities are moving closer to where the pigs are raised and are integrating with farms.
  • Within 10 years, China will strive to become more efficient and competitive with the United States and the EU. Chinese pork will be positioned to compete with imports on price and quality.

“The Pork Checkoff is committed to adding value for pork producers, including expanding pork exports to developing and emerging markets,” said David Newman, a pig farmer representing Arkansas and president of the National Pork Board. “This market research will help key decision-makers define and develop these markets.”

Claire Masker-King

Claire Masker-King

Director of Sustainability Communications