Long march of Chinese demand for chicken's feet

WORLD attention is very much focused on China and the Olympic Games and the clinical organisation of this celebration of a huge range of sports. However, China is fast becoming a major importer of a wide range of meat and associated products.

Figures just released by the customs authorities in Beijing reveal that in the first six months of this year China imported just short of 420,000 tonnes of poultry meat – up by almost 25,000 tonnes on the same period of 2007, but an astonishing 133,000 tonnes higher than in the first two quarters of 2006.

Avian influenza – bird flu – is a big problem in China where it is reckoned that many outbreaks in small flocks go largely undetected. However, one recent incidence saw 320,000 ducks in the Guangdong province destroyed. The Chinese authorities appear acutely aware of their problems and are showing an increasing willingness to co-operate with the Paris-based OIE – the world animal health organisation.

The threat to human health from the virulent strain of avian flu – H5N1 – remains a major concern and China is taking steps to ensure that imported poultry meat is derived from assured sources.

The US was the major supplier of poultry meat to China in the first six months of 2008 shipping in 300,000 tonnes – up by over 50,000 tonnes. But Argentina, a country more renowned for its beef, has seen it exports soar from 18,700 tonnes to 112,600 tonnes.

The typical Chinese diet is somewhat different from the West. This is reflected in the fact that during the January to end of June period of this year, over 50 per cent of poultry imports were in the form of chicken feet

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