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Infographic: China's pig footprint

Tom Levitt

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The environmental impact of China's pork industry is becoming too large to ignore

article image
 

Meat invariably means pig in China, with pork accounting for 65% of the meat consumed in the country.

And after last year's high-profile takeover of the US pig giant Smithfield by Shuanghui International, since renamed the WH Group, the largest pig producer in the world is now in China.

Although the overall resource footprint of pork is, on average, lower than beef, it is still considerably higher than vegetarian alternatives.

What is more, the long list of negative environmental impacts is reaching crisis point. For example, pig production accounts for 42% of nitrogen and 90% of phosphorus flows into the South China Sea.

More generally, livestock is now the main source of both soil and water pollution, according to data released by China's Ministry of Environmental Protection in January.




(click on the image to see an enlarged version)

The pig industry – along with the agri-food sector as a whole  – is big business in China today. Companies such as the WH Group and New Hope, China's largest producer of animal feed, are major employers and given generous state support.

However, as the graphic produced by the US-based Wilson Center's China Environment Forum reveals, the costs of rising meat and intensive pig production can no longer be ignored.

High-profile environmentalists such as Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Environmental and Public Affairs, say China should turn its back on its booming meat sector and encourage more sustainable levels of pork consumption.

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猪肉产业对比

我认为美国和中国的猪肉生产业没有太大的可比性,因为两个国家的人口密度差距太大。为什么不和丹麦的猪肉产业相比呢?丹麦有50万人口,每年可以产出2500万头猪。

Pork comparisons

It is not very helpful to compare China's pork industry to the USA, given the different population densities.

Why do you not compare with Denmark, which has a population of about 5 million people and produces 25 million pigs every year?


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