China May Be Culling Dairy Cows for Beef to Offset Pork Losses

(Bloomberg) -- With African swine fever carving a big chunk out of China’s hog herds, the world’s biggest meat consumer is turning to other types of locally produced and imported protein.

Hefty beef shipments from Australia signal that people in China are already switching away from pork to cattle meat, according to Alyssa Badger, director of global operations at HighGround Dairy in Chicago. And Ireland may increase beef exports to the country as well, she said.

Chinese beef imports have surged, with the world’s largest pork market buying 128,920 tons in April, 75% more than a year earlier. Meanwhile, the price of beef has risen, with one kilogram of meat costing 60.23 yuan, 6% higher than in August when the country reported its first outbreak of the hog disease.

With the increasing cost of beef, people have been shifting to other protein-rich foods such as chicken and eggs. Wens Foodstuffs Group, the biggest pork breeder, has agreed to buy a majority stake in a local chicken producer on expectations that demand will expand given poultry’s relatively lower cost.

At the same time, China’s farmers may be starting to slaughter their own dairy cows for beef, Badger said, noting that the country’s fluid milk and cream imports reached a record high in April.

“With the lower availability of pork and rising chicken prices, culling domestic cows seems sensible,” she said.

 
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