Hong Kong’s high dependence on imported meat requires the city to be more vigilant against risks stemming from sub-standard meat production facilities in some exporting nations, a study warned.
Of the 1.18 million tons total meat consumed in Hong Kong in 2013, just 167,000 tons, or 14 percent, came from local production, while the rest of the demand was met through imports, the study pointed out.
Given the high level of imports, Hong Kong people confront risks from processing facilities in places such as mainland China and Thailand, said the study jointly conducted by investor network FAIRR and specialist consultancy ARE.
As some exporters in the region have sub-standard facilities and poor management, Hong Kong consumers face risks such as tainted meat, exposing them to dangers such as cardiovascular diseases and increased exposure to harmful substances, the report said.
The study noted that Hong Kong ranks first in the Asia Pacific region in meat consumption per person per year.
In 2013, meat consumption per capita in the city stood at over 123.9 kilograms, putting it way ahead of Australia (93.9 kg), New Zealand (83.5 kg), Taiwan (63.5 kg), Singapore (56 kg), China (49.7 kg), South Korea (49.5 kg) and Japan (39.8 kg),
As most of the meat is imported, there is need for stronger oversight on the products.
In February this year, veterinary drug residue of chloramphenicol, a banned antibiotic, was found in imported pig meat in Hong Kong. The chemical can lead to severe complications such as aplastic anemia, leukemia, bone marrow suppression and the gray baby syndrome.
Three years ago a tainted-meat scandal in Shanghai dealt a crippling blow to fast-food giants McDonald’s and KFC, and McDonald’s restaurants in Hong Kong were forced to halt the sale of some items on the menu.
In June 2015, smugglers in China were found to be transporting expired frozen meat, some of which was said to be several years old.
According to the FAIRR-ARE study, the use of antibiotics in Asian chicken could rise by 129 percent by 2030, and in pork production by 124 percent, despite a global push to reduce the use of such antimicrobial drug and agents in livestock.
This will come amid an expected 19 percent growth in Asian meat supply by 2025, a figure that has been forecast by economists at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Similar threats are also pervasive in other food imports to Hong Kong, like seafood, eggs and milk, mostly from north of the border.
Hongkongers also consume the highest amount of seafood, 144 kg per capita per year, and egg and dairy products are among the city’s staple diet as well.
Asian factory farming is booming with Chinese meat and feed producers such as New Hope Group and Wen’s Group now among the ten largest animal-feed manufacturers globally. Half of seafood in Asia is now produced in intensive factory farms.
Meat, seafood and dairy industries in the region face a range of badly managed sustainability risks including food safety and environmental risk as well as antibiotic overuse.
China already consumes almost half the world’s antibiotics, according to the report.
The report discusses risks in areas including labor rights, animal welfare and the level of livestock epidemics in the region, with four major Chinese and Thai companies examined ranked in the bottom two tiers.
Jeremy Coller, Founder of the FAIRR Initiative and CIO of Coller Capital, said: “Investors have a big appetite for Asia’s animal protein sector. But growth is driven by a boom in factory farming which tends to mean more emissions and more epidemics, abuse of antibiotics and abuse of labour. All risks to returns.
“It’s exactly three years since McDonalds and KFC reeled from a $10.8 billion loss of market cap due to the expired meat scandal in China. But lessons have not been learnt. Far sighted investors are looking to alternative proteins for future growth, with the likes of Asian-owned Quorn growing 19 percent in the first half of 2017.”
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