ST. LOUIS – Changing tastes, rising incomes and urban lifestyles are driving the rising consumption of beef in China, according to a report by the Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research Advisory Group.

The report, “The Dragon’s Appetite for Beef: Rising Opportunity for Key Beef Suppliers,” finds that while demand is quickly outpacing the production capabilities of local producers, the cultural and economic forces shaping China's tastes potentially is creating opportunities for beef exporters looking to crack the Chinese market. Stagnating domestic beef production could mean great opportunities for exporters in key beef producing countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Uruguay and India. The United States also could benefit if China lifts a suspension from the Chinese market imposed following a 2004 bovine spongiform encephalopathy outbreak in the US.

“The consumption of beef in China is expected to rise, on a per capita basis, by 24 percent in the coming decade,” said Guilherme Melo, Rabobank Food & Agribusiness (FAR) Research and Advisory group analyst. “This is actually below what it should be, as supply shortages and rising prices are restricting demand. Nonetheless, while market share will probably remain flat over the next ten years as a result, the absolute volume will increase by roughly 25 percent, adjusted for population growth.”

Rabobank reports that beef is a niche item in China, accounting for only 8 percent of per capita meat consumption compared to 22 percent for poultry and 65 percent for pork. More than 60 percent of total beef consumption takes place outside the home. Major options for eating away from home include ‘hot pot’, workplace cafeterias, Western-style restaurants and quick service restaurants (QSRs) such as McDonald’s and KFC.