Penning Pigs: China – King of pork

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The last twenty years have been a time of consolidation and transition from backyard farming to large, modern integrated farms. Dr. Mark Lyons, Alltech vice-president, believes the next two decades will focus on how companies can increase their production efficiency in a sustainable way and maintain their profitability. They will need to make these changes as they improve environmental practices and rebuild trust with ever-conscious consumers.

“Chinese agriculture of 20 years ago would almost be unrecognizable compared to today’s modern industry,” says Lyons. “The pace of change in this critical sector has been extremely rapid over these two decades.”

China is set to remain the largest pork meat producer and consumer in the world and the Chinese perspective on pig production has global implications.

Yet more improvements are needed, particularly in productivity. There are more than 50 million sows in China. If farms averaged just 20 pigs raised per sow per year, it would equal one billion pigs per year. However, only 600 million pigs are marketed each year. Does that mean 400 million pigs die (or are consumed locally and not recorded), OR is the country only marketing 12 pigs per sow per year? These are important questions that illustrate the need for better marketing data as well as better marketing mechanisms. And to put this in perspective, consider that those 400 million “lost” pigs would equate to more than three times the U.S. annual production!

With the purchase of Smithfield Foods last year by the Shuanghui group, China is poised not only to import more U.S. pork but also transfer the technology of an integrated system at home.

Later this week we’ll discuss Chinese feed production trials and challenges.

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