The demand for meat in China is rising. This means good business not only for the United Stated but also for Germany, says DW's Frank Sieren.
Pork is popular in China. Most meals feature it in various incarnations and innards, ears or tongues are standard. Last year, Chinese consumers ate six times more pork than their US counterparts - 57 tons in total - despite the fact that there are only four times more Chinese citizens than Americans. The consumption of meat has increased massively. In the 1960s, eggs, poultry, dairy products, meat and fish made up only 4 percent of the average Chinese calorie intake. This has risen to 19 percent.
In recent years, China has not only become the biggest consumer of meat in the world but also the biggest producer. In 2014, China's biggest meat producer, the WH Group, put over 3.7 million tons of meat on the market, slaughtering some 15 million pigs. While the demand for pork in the US has remained constant in the past 20 years, in China, it continues to grow.
Local producers cannot keep up
China boasts over 160 cities with more than one million inhabitants, whose middle classes are eating more and more meat. The domestic meat industry cannot cope with the demand. In the first nine months of this year alone, pork imports from the US rose by 6 percent over the same period in 2014.
Furthermore, Chinese consumers are turning to frozen meat over fresh produce. They are buying more and more foreign meat, from the US, Australia or the EU. In 2008, US meat producers sold $429 million worth of pork to China. Four years later, this figure had risen to over a billion dollars. US supplies make up 18 percent of total pork imports to China.
A chance for new suppliers
Beijing is thus looking for new pork suppliers: In Mexico, Thailand or Brazil, for example, but also in Germany which is one of the big beneficiaries of China's growing demand for meat. In August, the German Meat Industry Association (VDF) announced that meat exports to China had doubled to 83,400 tons in the first half of this year. The VDF's head Heike Harstick said she was "certain that this level will be maintained." A stroke of luck for German pork producers who already export all the bits that do not land on German plates to China. Their prospects are now even better, and they will be delivering more ears and tongues to China in future. With the abolition of the one-child policy, there will be more Chinese children and meat consumption will surely rise.
Our correspondent Frank Sieren is considered to be one of Germany's leading China experts. He has lived in Beijing for 20 years.