FEET FIRST: Discarded weekly by millions of farmers in the UK, chicken feet and pig trotters could be worth millions if exported to China

Published in FOCUS magazine in March 2014.

China is one of the top ten biggest food and drink markets for the UK – and its growing fast. In the first half of 2013, exports from the UK to China grew 126 per cent, reaching £102 million. In December, British meat producers accompanied David Cameron as part of his trade visit to China in an effort to promote the sale of various meats, including
chicken feet and pig trotters – both Chinese delicacies.

Chicken feet are fried, seasoned and eaten as a snack, while Chinese eat pig trotters in a stew, braised, or on a stick. Exporting these products is already big business for the US, Brazil and Argentina; for the UK, the market potential is huge. Exporting pig trotters alone could provide UK farmers with an additional £7.5 million a year. This is dependent, however, on whether the relevant permits and regulations will allow such sales in China in the future – an on-going area of discussion.

As the world leader in breeding economical pigs, Britain is in a unique position. Their meat is considered high quality and British pigs eat less, grow faster, and reproduce more quickly than Chinese pigs. These factors make a British pig half the cost of its Chinese cousin.

Other countries have already used their low production costs to compete in the Chinese market. In 2012, China imported 231,700 tons of chicken feet, worth £214 million; in the first three quarters of 2013, 169,000 tons came from the US alone. In the United States, chicken feet are worth around two cents, but the Chinese can sell them for U$S0.42. The UK selling
chicken feet to China could add an extra 15 per cent of revenue, or £1.50, per chicken in profit, to the already £4.4 billion UK poultry industry.

To find out more, click here.

A TUSK TASK: As the world’s biggest consumer of illegal ivory, the potential future extinction of African elephants may hinge on China

Published in FOCUS magazine in May 2014.

The rise of China’s middle class means people can spend their disposable incomes on cars, electronics, and tragically, ivory. Principles of feng shui state that ivory disperses misfortune and drives out evil spirits, while Chinese culture declares it symbolic of wisdom and nobility. Either way, it makes a great gift. Furthermore, ivory, or xiangya literally translates to ‘elephant’s teeth’; consumers are not often aware that elephants must die to harvest their tusks.

Many see the commodity as a safer investment than the questionable housing market, bringing about its nickname of ‘white gold’. China’s increased involvement in Africa’s infrastructure over the past decade has streamlined the ivory trade supply chain, making it easier to illegally ship between Africa and Asia. In October 2012, authorities confiscated four tons of ivory, valued at US$3.5 million, from two cargo containers in Hong Kong, followed by 1.4 more tons two months later. Since the ships had passed through various ports to disguise their origins, Interpol believes organised crime was responsible.

In 1989, an international treaty banned the trade of ivory, killing the business in China. With ivory shops closing, the initiative was hugely successful. Once again, elephant populations grew. However, a 2008 exception to this treaty allowed Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana to sell an ivory stockpile to China and Japan for US $15 million. With this new supply, both the Chinese ivory industry and international ivory poaching were reborn. In 2013, 25,000 elephants were killed in Africa, equivalent to three per hour – worse than before the 1989 ban. Today, all ivory sold in China is supposed to have come from the 2008 stockpile or before 1989 – items over 50 grams are required to have a certificate of provenance.

To read more, click here.