Region/Countries: Asia, China Industry: Agriculture / Timber, Food and Beverage Date: April 2023

Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Domestic production is lagging behind rising demand, opening the door for exports from meat producers in Wisconsin.

People in China eat more meat—by total volume—than any other country in the world.

In 2021, people in China ate nearly 100 million tons of meat, or 27% of the worldwide total, according to the China Agricultural Outlook Report. That’s twice as much meat as the U.S. consumed. (On a per capita basis, though, the figures are reversed: the average American eats twice as much meat as the average Chinese person, a McKinsey & Co. report says.)

Meat consumption in China has been growing for decades, and several trends are emerging. As income levels rise, so does the demand for premium meat products. Consumers also are becoming more concerned about food safety, environmental sustainability, and animal welfare. They are looking for diverse, nutritious, and convenient products, including high-quality grass-fed and organic meats.

Pork tops the list for Chinese meat eaters, accounting for 60% of total meat consumption, the McKinsey report says, followed by poultry, with beef ranked third. But Chinese consumers who can afford to pay more for meat say they think beef is healthier than pork.

As demand for meat escalates, production in China is having a hard time keeping up because of a shortage of feed grains and limited breeding technology. That opens possibilities for more imports.

Prospective meat exporters should consider emphasizing the quality of their products, as well as the sustainability of the meat source and production process, particularly if they want to target middle- and higher-income Chinese consumers. Also, young people are looking for convenience in buying and cooking meat, and foreign producers may capture some of that market by expanding supply channels in order to participate in the online fresh food business.