China has such a high demand for fresh beef that live cattle is being shipped from Australia to mainland China. Recently, more than 150 live cows were loaded onto a plane so that they could be slaughtered fresh in the Chinese city of Chongqing. Industry experts say that they are able to reach more areas by using air travel in lieu of the sea. The recent flight from Australia to China was conducted by Elders Ltd., an Australian exporting company.
The general manager for live exports at Elders, Cameron Hall, said, “Air freight does provide the opportunity to get cattle into inland areas. If you’re sending them in by sea, then that limits you very much to the coastal areas.”
Current statistics show that beef consumption in China will increase by 2.2 million tons every year from now until 2025. The price of beef in China is four times greater than it was in 2000.
To help cover this demand, Australia and China have established a free trade agreement that will send Australian livestock to China on chartered aircrafts.
The manager of Australian advisory firm Kidder Williams Ltd., David Williams, said, “It’s a massive opportunity. The China market is a growth story.”
Part of China’s increase in demand for meat is derived from the country’s growing middle class. Traditionally, the most popular meat in China has been pork, due to the abundance of backyard pigs and their ability at turning waste into manure.
Meanwhile, beef was, until recently, reserved for higher class citizens. Just three decades ago, pork accounted for 90% of all meat in China. Now, it accounts for less than 60%. The beef market in China is worth about $60 billion per year, and the Chinese make use of every last part of the cows.
The CEO of livestock exporting company The Wellard Group, Scot Braithwaite, said, “The offal and the bones and all that product is used in a manner that is even beyond our imagination. The bones get one use, to be boiled and used for soups, and they dry it out and use it again as a basis for Chinese medicine.”
Braithwaite went on to say that China is known for paying considerably higher prices for exported beef than other countries. Customers will even purchase internal organs fresh from the slaughterhouse.
For now, the single cow flight from Australia to China was merely a test. But if it proves to be profitable, expect more international cattle flights to occur in the future.
However, the agreement must overcome other issues as well. Namely, the pushback from animal rights activists and the giant mess that the cows make on the airplane.
But if the money is there, the practice of flying cows across the sea will undoubtedly continue.