China's plans to buy the world's largest por producer only act as further proof that the country may have an insatiable appetite. Even though half of the world's pigs reside in china – over 470 million – it might not be enough to satisfy the country's growing desire for meat products.
As the number of US residents eating meat has been steadily declining, consumption in China has grown by more than 18 percent since 2007. It's now twice the level of consumption in the US.
Pork is far and away the meat of choice in China, outstripping demand for other Western favorites such as beef and chicken. This is goes a long way in explaining why Shuanghui International – the owner of China's largest meat processing factory – recently acquired Smithfield Foods Inc. – the world's leading pork producer.
China also buys 60 percent of the world's soybean exports to feed to its livestock and it's expected that Chinese companies will continue to purchase both foreign agricultural land and food-producing companies in the future.
As the level of pork consumption continues to climb in China, production is starting to shift from farm-level operations to larger factory-like operations. Poor health and safety standards in these facilities has led to overcrowding and been blamed for pollution, as well as the the spread of disease. Some even believe it was the cause of the recent dumping of thousands of dead pigs in a river that flows into Shanghai.
Even though pork is the meat of choice for the moment, consumption of others is also steadily increasing. Fast food restaurants in China often feature chicken instead of beef, as in the US. This means that the country could soon start looking outside it's own borders for ways to increase animal stocks.
Do you think pork will always be the meat of choice in China? After China buys the world's largest pork producer, where do you think they will turn next?