Twice-cooked pork on endangered list as China's prized pig breeds diminish

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 May, 2013, 5:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 May, 2013, 12:53pm

For lovers of fine Chinese food the news will be hard to swallow - national delicacies such as dongpo pork and twice-cooked pork are in danger of vanishing. But it has nothing to do with sick pigs or bloated hogs floating in rivers, just bad economics.

Problems of supply and demand mean more farmers have been importing Western pigs.

About 85 per cent of local breeds were experiencing a rapid fall in numbers, a research report by China Agricultural University's College of Animal Science and Technology found. Of about 72 domestic breeds, at least 31 face the threat of extinction.

One of the endangered native breeds is the liangtouwu pig, which literally translates as "two heads black" for its distinctive blackened head and rear, the report says, which was reported in a Xinhua-affiliated newsweekly, Oriental Outlook, on Monday.

Included in the family of liangtouwu pigs are the Jinhua and Dongshan breeds. Well-known dishes made with these pigs including dongpo pork, twice-cooked pork and Jinhua ham. Liangtouwu pigs have long been considered one of China's "four prized pig breeds".

Jinhua pigs are raised specially for pork bellies, while Jinhua pork is prized for its thin skin, fine bones, succulent meat and near-perfect fat-to-meat ratio.

Although China is the world's biggest pig breeder, market inefficiencies as a result of poor economic management have led to severe problems of supply and demand, the report said.

Chen Qingming, a professor at the university and a former secretary general in charge of swine at China's Association of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, said the shortfall had been compensated with more foreign imports, notably from Britain, the US, Denmark and Belgium.

As a result, foreign and mixed pig breeds have quickly taken over the share of the market and reduced the genetic diversity of local breeds, he said. Cheaper prices for native pigs as well as their slower growth cycles, have also forced farmers to raise more Western pigs for greater returns.

Chen said the loss of native pig breeds would be akin to an "ecological disaster".