With a population of over 1.4 billion, China has become the second-largest meat market in the world in terms of revenues, only second to the United States. Nevertheless, when it comes to the per capita consumption of meat, China lags well behind most of the developed countries. Despite China’s long history of livestock production and meat (such as pork, lamb, beef, and poultry) consumption, meat has not always been accessible and affordable for the common population. According to a Statista global consumer survey in 2022, only less than 80 percent of Chinese said they ate meat, the second-lowest among all 39 surveyed countries. However, as disposable income and nutritional knowledge increase, meat products are becoming an increasingly critical part of the Chinese diet.
China’s pork market
Pork dominates China’s meat market. In 2022, it took up more than 50 percent of the domestic meat consumption. China is by far the world’s largest pork producer, consumer, and importer. Smithfield, once the world's foremost pork company, was bought by Shineway (later renamed WH Group) in 2013 to service China's pork needs. China was the world’s top pork consumer in terms of per capita consumption for a decade. However, in 2018-2019, multiple severe outbreaks of African swine fever, a fatal pig disease, killed a quarter of the world’s pig population including around 60 percent of the hog herd in China. Consequently, pork consumption in China plummeted as a result of a supply constraint and price hike. Pork consumption gradually recovered in the following years. In 2021, China consumed around 23.7 kilograms of pork per capita, ranking third among all OECD countries.
To satisfy the demand and stabilize the market, China increased its pork import volume significantly in 2020. Over four million tons of pork were imported into China that year, which was roughly quadrupled from 2018. The gradual recovery of China's pork production led to a significant decrease in pork imports in 2022.
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Research expert covering e-commerce and FMCG in Greater China