The other week, we discussed how pork is going from strength to strength in a global sense, but for years this delicious meat has been a mainstay in China.
Compared to any other country, pork is the key meat consumed in China. Overall, it makes up 70% of the country's overall meat market share, and demand is consistently high. In the future, this demand is likely only to increase, making China one of, if not, the biggest pork markets in the entire world. But what is it about the humble pig that is so appealing to the Chinese market? Well, it comes down to a few key factors, one of which resides in China's long history and what the pig itself symbolises for the country.
In modern-day China, its citizens consume the equivalent of approximately 500 million pigs every year, which in itself accounts for approximately half of all pork consumed in a year. The pig holds a lot of historical and cultural significance in China. First of all, the Chinese character for 'family' is a pig under a roof. Second, in a historical sense, sacrificial pigs were used during particular commemorations, including weddings, funerals and festivals.
Over the years, the pig's cultural and historical importance has remained, although certain aspects have of course adapted. These days, pigs are not sacrificed as part of particular commemorations, and the handling and care of pigs have improved substantially.
There was a time where the cost of pork in China was expensive, meaning many families could only afford to enjoy different cuts a couple of times a year. In more recent times, however, this price has dropped, making pig more affordable and, in turn, increasing demand throughout the country.
Economy and export
As pig is such an integral part of China's encomony, its cost can actually dictate the cost of other goods and services. So if the cost of pig increases, so too could the price of other meats, vegetables, miscellaneous products, etc. This makes sense when you realise that more than of the world's pig population resides in the country. In fact, the current population of pigs in China doubles the US's human population and equates to around half of China's own human population.
One important point worth noting is that while China may claim to more than half of the world's pig population, it comparatively exports very little to other countries. However, the country still imports pork products from other countries, including Australia.
While China's love affair with pork could seem overwhelming, there's the simple reality that pork is their default meat. It's such a key delicacy for them that in Mandarin, the general word for “meat” (rou) is the same as the specific word for “pork”. Add to that the country's massive 1.357 billion population, and you can see why their main preferred meat is so highly demanded.