As mentioned in our first blogpost, the following series of posts will summarise the workshop on “Urban food, sufficiency, and sustainable agriculture in China” organised on August 26, 2023, in Guangzhou, China. This post covers the workshop’s second part, which focused on animal agriculture, wet markets, pigs, and the pig industry.

The second part was initiated by Mrs. Ai Lin from the China Animal Agriculture Association (CAAA). She presented an overview of the animal husbandry in China, highlighting that China is a significant player in the global animal husbandry industry. One of the points she metioned was balancing supply and demand while meeting consumers’ increasing quality and environmental standards is a challenge for the industry.

The Chinese animal husbandry industry’s main aim is to respond to the growing demand for livestock products. According to CAAA projections, China’s meat consumption will exceed 110 million tons by 2035, peaking at approximately 80 kilograms per person per year. This will have a considerable impact on world trade and food security. China plans to increase its domestic production and efficiency by transforming and upgrading the livestock industry and reaching the ‘dual carbon’ goals (aiming to peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060).

Mrs. Ai Lin from the China Animal Agriculture Association (CAAA)

Mrs. Ai Lin emphasized that the Chinese animal husbandry industry needs to adopt intensive, intelligent, and sustainable practices and develop its own brand and information systems to achieve its development goals. These goals include ensuring food security, meeting residents’ needs for livestock products, reducing carbon emissions, and achieving rural revitalisation. Additionally, Mrs. Ai Lin presented the China Animal Husbandry Expo, organized by the CAAA every May 18, which showcases the latest achievements and trends in the industry and promotes international cooperation.

Then followed a presentation by Dr. Zhong Shuru from Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou about the role of wet markets in China’s sustainable food system. Due to the centrality of wet markets in showcasing the systemic changes China is facing in agri-food systems, we decided to make a separate blog post on wet markets, which will be presented in our next post.

Next, Dr Xu Dongming from NTNU presented some preliminary findings of the MidWay research on pig farming in China. The presentation was based primarily on archival research of Chinese written sources and provided a historical view of pig farming in the country. Dr Xu showed that pigs have been an integral part of Chinese agriculture for millennia.

Dr Xu Dongming from NTNU

The presentation focused on the role of pigs in Chinese culture and their significance in the daily diet of Chinese households. Dr. Xu’s presentation illustrated how pig farming in ancient and pre-modern times relied on family-based free-range and captive breeding models. However, this model underwent a transformation in the twentieth century, leading to the emergence of industrial farms based on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). 

Professor Cai Gengyuan from South China Agricultural University and Guangzhou Pig Farming Association

Staying with the topic of pig farming, the next presenter, Professor Cai Gengyuan from South China Agricultural University and Guangzhou Pig Farming Association, provided an overview of the pig industry in Guangdong province. Pig farming is a crucial industry in Guangdong, and around 60% of the meat consumed is pork. However, during COVID and partly due to the African Swine Fever, pork consumption has been in decline. Guangdong faces a hot and humid climate, a large population, and limited arable land. In 2022, Guangdong produced 5% of the pork in all of China. Dr. Cai pointed out that meat is mainly eaten fresh (slaughtered the night before) or refrigerated (i.e., preserved coolly for some days), accounting for 82% of the meat market. Frozen meat is unpopular in China, but cold fresh meat is increasing due to COVID-19. Guangdong’s strengths are its large consumer market, high degree of industrialisation, strong corporate strength, and excellent breeding. Prof. Cai also pointed to Guangdong’s need to balance efficiency and quality and preserve local varieties and diversity.

Ms. Yang Xingfeng from the Springfield Eco-Agriculture organisation rounded off the second part of the workshop by discussing animal husbandry practices among the Naxi people in Yunnan. They practice agriculture and animal husbandry, adapting to the complex terrain and historical changes. Ms Yang pointed out that the Naxi people amongst other things face challenges connected to food production difficulties due to climate change. They have a rich heritage of local knowledge and protection and a unique relationship with animals and nature. Ms. Yang emphasized the strong relationship between humans and nature in the Naxi villages and the belief that the destruction of nature will lead to nature taking revenge on humans. After the presentation, we were left with a sensation that respecting local livelihoods and crafting good relations between humans and livestock is central to ensuring sustainable agri-food systems in the future. In this respect, we have much to learn from the Naxi people.

Ms. Yang Xingfeng from the Springfield Eco-Agriculture organisation

Funded by the European Union (ERC, MidWay, project 101041995). Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Council Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.