Interesting article in the LA Times about rising pork prices in China. Good opportunity for analysis from the article on nationalism and meat eating.
China, by far the world’s biggest producer of pork, is home to about half the world’s porcine population with 460 million pigs. That’s about seven times more than the United States, the second-largest producer.
But it hasn’t been enough to keep a lid on prices, which have risen steeply since the middle of last year. That’s when Chinese farmers reduced production in response to high feed costs and shrinking profit margins. A spate of hog diseases also cut into the supply.
China’s government is so sensitive to the country’s appetite that it maintains a strategic reserve of 200,000 tons of frozen pork. It has tapped that secret stash in recent weeks to increase supply. But analysts said it will make little difference in a nation that consumes 100,000 tons of pork daily.
My first thought is that this indicates the importance of pork consumption to the idea of the nation. In the USA we keep some strategic oil reserves to ensure that there is a backup, but also to reassure Americans that their government is thinking about their oil future oil consumption. It reassures and encourages healthy consumption. Similarly, China’s frozen pig reserve indicates a selling of the idea of regular animal protein consumption to the citizenry.
After wondering if other meats will replace the value of pig in Chinese food, David Pearson, the article’s author, includes this reply:
Fat chance, said Shi Zhijun, owner of a Beijing restaurant that sells pork-filled steamed buns.
“Eating pork is good for people,” said the rotund 45-year-old, who uses pork for half the items on his menu. “Everybody should eat at least a half-jin [500 grams] every day. It’s very nutritious…. It helps people grow. If you don’t eat pork you will be very thin and weak.”
This seems like another interesting western media strategy — the quirky ignorant quote from a foreigner. I’m not going to scrap with this idea on the factual basis — pork as health food is in fact silly. Instead, the quote’s inclusion seems like a key element of American media’s colonialist lens. The notion of exotic other people who don’t know better, is the foundation of judgement and intervention.
It is this precise notion — they don’t know what they are doing — that lends to the well-intentioned, but devastating difference and quite often some sense of we must help. The impulse to act to help is at the core of the colonial mission. Of course, a pork bun seller would never suggest that his product was harmful.
In this case, the geopolitics associated with China make it unlikely that the United States will send a chicken promotional team to China (although stranger things have happened).