In a farm deep in a southern region of China lives a very big pig that is as heavy as a polar bear. The 500kg (1,102lbs) animal is part of a herd being bred to become giant swine. At slaughter, some of the pigs can sell for more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,400), over three times the average monthly disposable income in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, where Pang Cong, the farm’s owner, lives. Although Pang’s pigs may be an extreme example of the lengths farmers are going to fill China’s pork shortage problem, the idea that bigger is better has been spreading across the country, home to the world’s most voracious consumers of the meat. Pang’s prize specimen is heavier than an average adult male polar bear. Meanwhile, in the northeastern province of Jilin, high pork prices are prompting farmers to raise pigs to reach an average weight of 175 to 200kg, far heavier than the normal weight of 125kg. They want to raise them “as big as possible”, Zhao Hailin, a hog farmer in the region, said. The trend is not limited to small farms. Major protein producers in China including Wens Foodstuffs – the country’s top pig breeder – Cofco Meat and Beijing Dabeinong Technology say they are trying to increase the average weight of their pigs. Large farms are focusing on boosting heft by at least 14 per cent, Lin Guofa, a senior analyst with consulting firm Bric Agriculture Group, said. The average weight of pigs at slaughter at some large-scale farms has climbed to as much as 140kg, compared with about 110kg normally, Lin said. That could boost profits by more than 30 per cent, he said. The large swine are being bred during a desperate time for China. With African swine fever decimating the nation’s hog herd – by half, according to some estimates – prices of pork have soared to record levels, leading the government to urge farmers to boost production to temper inflation. Chinese Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua warned that the supply situation would be “extremely severe” until the first half of 2020. China would face a pork shortage of 10 million tonnes this year – more than what is available in global trade – meaning it would need to increase production domestically, he said. During a recent visit to the major livestock provinces of Shandong, Hebei and Henan, Hu urged local governments to resume pig production as soon possible, with a target of returning to normal levels next year. Still, many farmers are wary about restocking swine after being hurt by an earlier outbreak of the fever. Piglet and breeding sow prices have also surged, making it more expensive for backyard farms to rebuild their herds. Increasing the size of pigs they already own may be the next best step.