The Chinese poultry sector needs to adopt a new model to restore consumer confidence and to halt the decline in consumption that has occurred over recent years, and the industry must invest to restore consumer confidence.
The chicken industry needs to tackle disease and alter its product offering but, as importantly, it also needs to communicate more with consumers.
According to Chen Wei, vice president and secretary general of the China Meat Association, speaking at VIV MEA 2016, consumption of poultry meat in the country fell by 1.3 percent in 2013 and by 2.7 percent in 2014. While figures for 2015 are yet to be made available, this decline is thought to have continued last year, and the prospects for 2016 look little better.
The Chinese poultry industry may have become more sophisticated, moving from simply slaughtering to producing more processed product. But, among consumers, strong demand for buying live birds from the market, rather than ready-prepared meat, remains. This preference is particularly strong in the south of China.
A strong preference for buying live chickens persists in China, and the poultry industry must address this if it is to continue growing.
In order to counter this purchasing habit, Wei argues, the Chinese poultry industry needs to particularly concentrate on the production of chilled product in the region.
Additionally, more money also needs to be invested in promoting chicken to the consumer and in highlighting its benefits and, in parallel, more needs to be done to control poultry disease, he added.
The industry, however, is facing an uphill battle. Not only has the Chinese economy slowed, but the public remains cautious where chicken meat is concerned due to avian influenza, food safety scandals and media reports of smuggled meat.
Neither can China’s poultry industry expect much respite from export markets.
Over recent years, China has exported in the region of 500,000 of tonnes broiler meat per year. However, export volumes have been falling, and this fall is expected to continue through 2016.
The one bright spot for China’s broiler producers, however, is that pork prices have been at record highs, making poultry meat more attractive in comparison.
More than 400 food companies in China already have international certification for Halal production and, in addition, China operates its own Halal food certification system. Those companies working to Halal-certified standards demonstrate how producers can not only work to quality standards, but also convincingly communicate those standards to consumers, so offering a model to the wider industry.
There are thought to be 20 million Muslims living in China, with average per capita meat consumption in the country standing at 63 kg. This would suggest that there is potential demand for Halal-certified meat products of in the region of 1.26 million tons.