The disappearance of live markets in China has left consumers there without a venue to purchase poultry the way they like it best. That has posed a problem for an industry already struggling because of consumer fears from an outbreak of avian influenza that infected 131 people and caused 38 deaths during the spring of 2013.
"Many consumers are still thinking fresh chicken meat is more tasty than chilled meat or frozen meat," Carl Shi, manager of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council office in Shanghai, said during a panel discussion June 13 at the USAPEEC executive conference and annual membership meeting in Williamsburg, Va. "But to change consumer behavior is a relatively long process."
With no new human cases of avian influenza since the later part of May, consumer fears are slowly easing. The Chinese government has allowed live markets to reopen in Zhejiang and Jiangsu. The reopening of some live markets in Shanghai is also expected, but there will be substantially fewer and the regulations will be stricter.
"There will still be live bird markets eventually, but the number will be reduced by 50 percent," Shi said.
Saying Chinese people believe "it's not a banquet without chicken meat," Shi said after two months of minimal chicken consumption, the Chinese will welcome chicken back into their diet. He told USAPEEC members he believes there will be a big jump in chicken consumption during the third quarter of 2013.
To help that projection become a reality, USAPEEC has been actively taking part in a campaign to assure the safety of poultry - both fresh and chilled.
China's cold storage facilities are 90 percent full, and Shi projects the country has a supply of frozen chicken that would last about two months.