One doesn’t appreciate the magnitude and importance of the role pork plays in the Chinese diet until you spend a bit of time here. The meat is so widely consumed, and such an integral part of so many beloved Chinese dishes, that one begins to take for granted that the default protein on menus is pork. Restaurants often feature only brief lists of chicken and beef dishes alongside their page-length selections of pork-based specialties.

So the African swine fever that has wiped out half the country’s herds has been especially excruciating — for consumers, restaurateurs, farmers and the government. Domestic Chinese pork prices have skyrocketed. And the crisis has begun to affect global markets, both positively and negatively.

China is the world’s largest consumer and importer of pork, so much so that it “has become the major influence on the price and availability of pork worldwide,” according to a study commissioned by the U.S. National Pork Board.


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