Chinese people love to eat meat. Over the past half century, with the rapid increase in global meat consumption, the intake of meat and meat protein of average person have doubled since the 1960s, with an average annual growth rate of 1.9 %. In Asia, the overall meat consumption has increased sevenfold in fifty years. The average annual meat consumption of Chinese people has increased from 4 kg to 62 kg, as an increase of nearly 16 times.
Meat has soared from 2% to 17% in the proportion of the Chinese diet structure. Pork has become the main dish on the Chinese table. Although some data shows that the pork consumption of Chinese is declining year after year, this does not mean that the Chinese enthusiasm for pork has faded. According to the statistics from the China National Bureau of Statistics, pork consumption still accounts for 86.27% of total meat consumption.
The pork import (excluding pig entrails and offal ) weighs about 700,000 tons in the first five months of this year, with the largest amount of 143,000 tons from Spain, followed by Germany’s 123,000 tons and Canada’s 111,000 tons. The top three pork import add up to more than 50% of the total import in this category.
As the consumption upgrades in recent years, Chinese eating habits are changing gradually. They were satisfied with “meat to eat” in the past, but now they prefer “healthy meat to eat” . The middle class in China are especially willing to pay more for pork with better quality, better taste and better balance between fat and lean meat. For them, eating well is more important than eating much.
Another reason for the decline in pork consumption may be that meat consumption is moving towards nutritional diversification. People are eating less pork, but more beef, mutton and poultry. In the first four years, per capita consumption of beef in China increased by 33%. Due to the large gap between the domestic beef supply and demand , China has relied on beef import for a long time. The beef import is estimated to grow continously in the next decade.
Statistics released by multiple parties confirm this trend. According to the data from Ministry of Agriculture of the People's Republic of China, China's beef imports have increased from 294,000 tons in 2013 to 935,000 tons in 2018 (previous 11 months). Moreover, according to the data from the United States Department of Agriculture, in 2018, China's beef import accounted for 14.3% of the world’s beef import with 9 percentage points higher than that of2014 (5.3%). And China Customs’ data shows that from January to May in 2019, beef import (excluding beef offal) were 564,000 tons, a year-on-year increase of more than 50%.
In terms of importing countries, China’s beef imports currently mainly come from South America (Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay) and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand). According to industry insiders, South American beef has the advantage of good price and large quantity of production, so it is mainly used for meat processing products or it will enter normal catering channels. But the Angus beef from Australia has excellent quality and correspondingly high price. So most of the Angus beef will enter the high-end catering channel, such as high-class western restaurants after entering China.
In terms of feeding, there are two kinds of beef sources--the grass-fed cattle and the grain-fed cattle. As food materials, each of them has its own advantages. The grass-fed cattle have large field to graze, while the grainfed cattle are raised in enclosures. Thus, the meat of grass-fed cattle is low in fat, lean and chewy with strong aroma, while the meat of grain-fed cattle is high in fat with a tender, mellow and rich taste.
Besides pork and beef, about 180,000 tons of mutton were imported in the first five months of this year, which is up 33,000 tons from the previous year. The mutton imports which mainly come from Australia and New Zealand reach 99% of the total amount of imported mutton, while the remaining small fraction comes from Uruguay and Chile. According to foreign media reports, China has a dominant position in New Zealand's frozen mutton export market, accounting for 58% and 46% respectively in its total export amounts and total export values in April.
Although pork is the Chinese most favorite, poultry is indispensable on Chinese tables. There is a saying in Cantonese that “no chicken, no banquet”. Whenever there are family dinners, ancestor worships and important feasts, the main course will be chicken. If no chicken shows up on the table, it will be regarded as disrespectful to the guests. So chicken is especially importantfor Chinese. According to JieMian statistics, people from Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan win top three in China. Since the domestic chickens are not enough to satisfy Chinese, they turn their mouths to imported chicken.
In the first five months of 2019, the total amount of imported chicken (excluding giblets), chicken wings (excluding wingtips, the same below) andchicken claws is 257,000 tons, of which Guangdong and Guangxi accounting for more than 40%, at 107,000 tons. Among them, chicken wings imported the most, accounting for 47%, followed by chicken claws which account for nearly 30%.
Though the chicken claw is abandoned by foreign consumers, it is favored by most Chinese people who give it the nice name as “the Claws of Phoenix". There are many styles and cuisines for chicken claws in China, such as “Baiyun Chicken Claws"(a famous Cantonese cuisine), the sauce flavored, the vinegar flavored chicken claws and the salty chicken claws with a bit spicy taste as well as pickled chilli chicken claws in package and so on. The flavors of chicken claws are diverse and tempting thanks to the wisdom and cooking skills of the Chinese people.
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