At the end of 2012, Brazil’s beef products were banned in China due to fears of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Chinese beef imports from the United States, the world’s biggest beef producer, have been banned since 2003. Regardless, China’s total beef imports from January to April were up more than tenfold from the year ago-period. China’s beef prices have risen at least 30 percent per month for the past year, Quartz reports.
Pork still remains China’s meat of choice. Approximately 52 million tons of pork are consumed annually versus only 6.3 million tons of beef. Although China’s pork is mostly produced domestically, it doesn’t have enough arable land to satisfy demand. China’s cattle herds are declining, according to US Department of Agriculture estimates, and will total 46.3 million head of cattle this year, or one head per 28 people, vs. one for every 11 in the US. China’s domestic beef is primarily produced by small slaughterhouses.
Raising cattle in Australia and New Zealand for the Chinese market is promising, as both nations have the advantage of geographical proximity over North and South America. At present, China accepts beef imports only from Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay and Costa Rica, but has started the process of authorizing Canadian imports.
Chinese consumers are estimated to consume 4 to 5 kg. of beef per person per year, which is about 20 percent of the world average. Meat imports to China could increase 3 percent annually over the next 10 years to 1.7 million tons in 2022, with beef growing fastest at 7 percent, according to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and United Nations forecasts.