A news item from Tibet notes that 80 percent of the pork in the capital city's market is imported from the United States.
The reporter visited the Chokpori (Yaowangshan) market near the Potala Palace in Lhasa and found that 80 percent of the 40,000 kg of pork sold there is frozen pork imported from the United States. He said the pork had become popular with consumers because it is much cheaper than Chinese pork. It sells for 11 yuan per jin (about $1.75/lb) in Lhasa, and its price at the port is just 7 yuan. According to the reporter, the pork maintains its quality over the vast distance and has good quality and taste.
The reporter emphasized the safety of the pork, noting the freezers filled with neatly-stacked boxes clearly labeled with production date and lot numbers. Every morning inspectors from the local animal quarantine bureau come to inspect samples.
A local quarantine official credited the American production system for the low price. In contrast to the large number of small, inefficient producers in China, he said the American farms are large-scale industrial operations with low costs.
Lhasa's American pork take-over may be a peek into China's future.
In most of China, pork has until now been produced within a few miles of the final consumer. Now, as the country becomes urbanized, pig farms have to move further from consumers, and chilled or frozen meat will become the common way of marketing it. New regulations on hog-farm pollution are hastening the shut-down of hog farms this year.
Lhasa is way ahead of the rest of the country on food-miles. Most of Lhasa's food has to be shipped in due to the lack of local food production in Tibet. Shipping frozen pork from America is cheaper than shipping it from, say, Sichuan, Henan or Heilongjiang. While Chinese consumers are said to have a strong preference for freshly slaughtered meat, those preferences can change if there is money to be saved.