Although China is currently struggling to pull itself out of an economic downturn, on the global economic stage, its growth over the past ten years has not gone unnoticed. China outpaced Japan to emerge as the world’s second-largest economy, and some economists predict the country will supplant the United States to claim the largest economy on the planet classification in the future.
One of the changes seen in China over the past decade is that its citizens are eating more meat. Unlike Americans, whose meat consumption has dropped over the past two decades, the Chinese now eat nearly 10 percent more meat than they did five years ago, and two times the amount of fast food now than they did in 1990. The expansion of fast food chains in China, such as McDonald’s, has a lot to do with this trend.
Chinese farmers, unable to keep up with its growing population’s demand for meat production, are sourcing it directly from U.S. farmers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, in 2011, Chinese companies bought $41 million worth of live breeding animals and genetics — up almost threefold from five years ago. Worldwide, the U.S. exported an all-time record of $664.1 million worth of live breeding animals, semen and livestock embryos last year — this represents an 82 percent increase over 2010.
Imports of livestock genetics from the U.S. are enabling Chinese farmers to trim their margins and produce animals in a shorter amount of time that grow faster, stronger and create more offspring. To ensure that they are forging a clear path to food self-reliance, China is focused on transforming their farming, moving away from small-scale models towards the Westernized practice of farms that operate as extensive business operations.
According to data provided by the United States International Trade Commission, the top three U.S. export categories to China in 2011 were power generation equipment followed by oil seeds and electrical machinery. In light of the devastation of the U.S. corn and soybean crops caused by extreme drought conditions, it may be just a matter of time before American livestock genetics become a top export category.
Photo Credit: TimothyJ