October 1, 2003



Chinese Experts Share Their Views on Chinese Consumers Bias Against "Western-Technique" Produced Chicken Meat


An eFeedLink Exclusive Report


In China, consumers, particularly those in the countryside, are generally biased against poultry meat produced through industrialized farming. For Chinese consumers, eating what they considered "western-technique" produced poultry meat as equivalent to "consuming hormones and antibiotics". In particular, they consider "rapid-growing chicken" to be grown so quickly because they were fed hormones. If humans were to eat the meat of these chickens, their health would be affected. Consequently, Chinese consumers generally kept away from these products. We know this is nowhere near the truth of the matter.


Two Chinese industry experts share their views on the above comments, and discuss the direction the Chinese broiler industry would take.


Opinion of: Gong Guifen, Livestock Expert, Standing Councilor of the China's Livestock Research Institute


The truth of the matter is very different. Nowadays, breeds of chicken are mainly originated from western countries and are white-feathered broilers which grow and mature very rapidly. They grow very quickly not because they were fed hormones, and their rate of survival is high not because they were given antibiotics. They are what they are because of the success achieved in breeding expertise after so many years of selective breeding.


Nowadays, chickens grow and develop very quickly mainly because only the pure-bred were chosen and then cross-bred to leverage on the advantages of cross-breeding. Therefore, chickens grow up very quickly, giving full play to their hereditary potential. On the other hand, nutritionists have come up with a comprehensive feed formula to satisfy the development needs of chickens during their various stages of growth.                                        


The reason for broilers to grow quickly: Firstly, hereditary function is the key for their foundation. Secondly, scientifically-arranged feed formula is their guarantee.                                            


Broiler feed are none other than corn, soymeal, vitamins, small quantity of amino acid supplements and minerals, oil, fishmeal or meat-and-bone meal, some even do not include animal protein and oil. In fact, antibiotics added into the feed are completely safe, and no residual strains or doses are used.


In fact, over the years, countries importing broilers have been raising their product standards in order to restrict the import of China-produced broilers. Chinese companies have kept raising the quality of their products so as to enter International market. Whether it is the raising of commodity chickens or their slaughter and processing, Chinese companies have attained advanced international standards. This is especially so for the slaughter and processing industry, where its software and hardware are already ahead of competitors overseas.


The safety of poultry meat produced by China's vertically integrated meat-producing companies is beyond reproach. One other reason why China's broiler market did not perform well during the first half of this year is mainly because of the SARS outbreak in the 2nd quarter of this year which affected the broiler market to certain extent.


Poultry was said to be the source of the SARS outbreak. Many even believed so after the SARS outbreak in Guangdong, and a rumour appeared saying that the virus of SARS was originated from a particular disease of chickens. As a result, many people kept their distance from broilers and refused to eat poultry products.


Besides, SARS also affected tourism industry in China, as well as the food industry, and this caused the consumption of broilers to drop dramatically. This was especially so after Japan announced on May 12 this year that it would not be importing chicken meat products from China, after it discovered bird's flu among the duck produce exported China's Shandong province to Japan. This seriously affected the export volume of China's chicken meat exports.


According to analyses by experts, China's broiler industry would achieve steady growth this year, but its exports would not hit a new high. After rapid growth in the last few years, the world's broiler industry is now entering a period of correction and adjustment. China's broiler industry grew rapidly as a result of borrowing the experience of other countries. The current setup is one where the major broiler processing companies depend on exports while the smaller processing companies rely solely on selling their products to the domestic market.


Although the export volume of broilers is a very small proportion of China's total broilers production, with the existence of the aforementioned setup, major processing companies would turn to selling their products to the domestic market when exports are not doing well. They would thereby be taking up the domestic market, which is previously dominated by the smaller companies, causing these companies to lose out and decline and even affect their survival. This change in market focus would definitely affect the entire broiler industry in China. 


However, we should also note that the international market still requires China-produced broilers which are relatively cheaper. The European Union is still hoping that China's broilers would re-enter its market soon. On the subject of international market and domestic market, you might want to look at the following figures: Presently, broiler consumption per capita in China is 7.8kg; this is below the world average of 11kg. But what are the reasons behind this?


The reasons are Chinese's eating habits, level of consumption, their favorite flavors, as well as cultural differences. In China, people are used to taking a chicken to boil soup, such as in southern Guangdong, people are particular about having the original taste of chicken. They generally don't prefer stir-fry chicken nuggets. The western-produced chicken does not meet the Cantonese way of cooking. Thus, Chinese ways of cooking and eating habits have more or less affect sales of broilers in Chinese market.


Another reason why Chinese consumers are not keen on broilers is the cultural difference in the understanding of chicken meat. Westerns view fowl meat as food, a source of protein that is easy to digest and absorb. For them, eating chicken is like "adding gasoline to cars", it is a necessity.


However, Chinese view chicken as a delicacy, an enjoyment. They are more concerned about the taste of the cuisine. As a result, developing and growing China's traditional high-quality chickens to satisfy the particular taste-bud need of Chinese consumers would also a huge business opportunity.


Opinion of: Shen Weijie, Deputy Chairman, Livestock Industry Association of China


In the long term, be it "rapid-growing" chicken (western breed) or high-quality chicken (Chinese breed), the industry would grow, as in accordance with the policies formulated by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture.


In recent years, Japan's demand for China's cooked fowl meat products and seasoning have grown from over 20,000 tons to 100,000 tons. China's fresh chickens do not enjoy price advantage in the international market; however, Chinese can exploit their strengths, and focus efforts in growing chicken processing industry for producing chicken-related cooked products using local chickens as raw materials. China is a major producer of fowl meat; nevertheless, its fowl meat per capita is only close to the world average. Therefore, there is much room for growth in the fowl meat industry in China.


Overall, according to market analysis, the broiler industry in China would be stable in the first half of 2003. If the EU removes its ban on China's broiler products and exports pick up, China's broiler industry would perform better in the second half of the year.