HONG KONG – Representatives from the US Meat Export Federation visited Hong Kong to promote US chilled pork as an option to help shore up the supply shortage of fresh, warm pork created by African Swine Fever (ASF) in China and neighboring countries. Recognizing the preference of Hong Kong’s consumers for fresh, warm pork, the USMEF hosted a press conference to promote the viability of chilled pork and the establishment of a new supply chain as a permanent option.
USMEF Senior Vice President for Asia Pacific Joel Haggard told attendees of the press conference that the supply of US chilled pork is a short-term solution for consumers in Hong Kong, where the demand for warm pork often means paying a premium for it to any of the network of wet market vendors there.
“The current supply situation opens opportunities for increased sales of US chilled pork in the short term and to convince more consumers to accept chilled pork as a permanent alternative,” said Haggard. He pointed out that consumers in neighboring countries, including Singapore and Taiwan, have begun utilizing the chilled pork option available consistently from the US.
Facing logistic challenges to consistently supply the Hong Kong market, Haggard said US trade officials are committed to overcoming previous hurdles, which included shipping delays of several days compared to chilled products shipped to countries such as Japan and Korea. Establishing an improved supply chain will make US chilled pork available at lower prices than consumers are accustomed to paying for fresh pork. Education is an important part of the process, he said.
“Wet market vendors in Hong Kong still need to be taught how to handle vacuum-packaged chilled product,” Haggard said. “We are just getting started and getting product that last mile to the many small outlets in Hong Kong’s meat sales environment is a challenge.”
Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO, told attendees how other Asian markets have benefitted from a steady supply of vacuum-packed chilled pork, specifically Japan and South Korea.
“What chilled product can do that frozen product typically cannot is encourage a 52-week per year program business opportunity,” Halstrom said. “Frozen pork can be stored, and importers can hold onto it. High-quality chilled product is meant to be moved consistently, week in and week out. The goal is to establish a supply chain and continue to grow the chilled pork segment.”
To introduce consumers to the benefits and quality of US chilled pork, the products will first be sold at prominent supermarkets in Hong Kong. According to Haggard, one major retailer launched an advertising campaign focused on the chilled product immediately after the USMEF press conference was held, including promotional pricing.
“So, we are off to the races,” Haggard said. “At this point, chilled US pork can be found in more than 100 supermarket outlets and some wet markets are also handling it. This is greater chilled pork distribution than we’ve ever had in Hong Kong.”