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The offal truth

China’s love of pig trotters is saving Britain’s pork industry

Over the last decade and a half, Britain’s pig farmers and pork producers have been under threat from cheaper pork imports and falling consumption in its main export markets in Europe. Domestic pig meat consumption is also ticking lower: it fell 0.3% in 2013, which was the country’s weakest year of pork consumption since 2002.

Now, thanks to China, it’s looking like a boom time for swine. According to British Food and Drink Federation (FDF), exports to the world’s largest pork consumer rose by 92% last year, pushing total food exports to the country up 82% to £201 million. A recent index measuring the confidence of British pork dealers rose for the first time (pdf, p. 8) in three years.

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Chinese demand for all parts of the pig is particularly beneficial for breeders. “There is a strong demand for pork in China and consumers like parts of the animal that we don’t consume, such as whole pig head and trotters,” the FDF’s Terry Jones told the Financial Times (paywall).

As we’ve reported, nose-to-tail pork products like trotters are a favorite among China’s growing middle class. In fact, Chinese demand has helped British exports of “offal,” the entrails and internal organs of an animal, rise a total of about 18% since 2011 to 41,123 tonnes (47,534 tons) in 2013, even as exports to other major markets have started to tail off.

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Meat is just one aspect of growing Chinese-UK trade, which hit a record high last year of more than £43 billion, China’s ambassador to the UK said in January. UK-China investment deals range from Chinese firms building a new financial center in London to helping the construction of the UK’s first nuclear power plant in decades.

And the British pig industry is poised for yet another boost. British and Chinese officials signed a deal in December to allow the export of live and frozen pig semen to be exported to China for impregnating sows there. The deal is expected to bring British pork producers up to £45 million a year.

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