Hunger for beef from Aus­tralia spurs cow flight

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By BLOOMBERG

Next time you’re stuck on a long-haul flight in a packed, econ­omy-class cabin, be­ing ig­nored by a fraz­zled flight at­ten­dant, spare a thought for the pas­sen­gers on a re­cent flight fromMel­bourne to Chongqing in China. They were cows.

Crat­edu­pand loaded onto the main deck of a Boe­ing Co 747 cargo plane by hy­draulic lift, the 150 beasts were on Aus­tralia’s first live cat­tle flight to cen­tralChina. Des­ti­na­tion: The abat­toir.

The flights are pos­si­ble, and prof­itable, be­cause of China’s soaring de­mand for fresh beef and reg­u­la­tions that re­quire im­ported live an­i­mals to be slaugh­tered close to their point of en­try. That means that if you want to sell fresh steaks to in­land cities, like Chongqing, you need a big plane.

“Air freight does pro­vide the op­por­tu­nity to get cat­tle into in­land ar­eas,” said Cameron Hall, gen­eral man­ager for live ex­ports at El­ders Ltd, the Ade­laide, Aus­trali­abased ru­ral-ser­vices com­pany that man­aged the first flight on Oct 20. “If you’re send­ing them in by sea, then that lim­its you very much to the coastal ar­eas.”

The prize is clear. China will eat an ex­tra 2.2 mil­lion met­ric tons of beef a year by 2025, ac­cord­ing to Rabobank — enough to make 19 bil­lion quar­ter-pounders. The de­mand pushed up Chi­nese prices four­fold since 2000 to about $10 a kilo­gram in June — making them among the most ex­pen­sive in the world.

So, just months af­ter the two coun­tries sealed a free trade agree­ment cov­er­ing ev­ery­thing from cows to coal, Aus­tralia-based live­stock agents and ex­porters have char­tered air­craft, sought out quar­an­tine sites and de­signed big­ger an­i­mal trans­port ships.

“It is a mas­sive op­por­tu­nity,” said David Wil­liams, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Mel­bourne-based ad­vi­sory firm Kid­der Wil­liams Ltd.

Part of the rea­son for growth is a change in diet. For cen­turies, China’s fa­vored meat has been pork, partly be­cause back­yard pigs not only sup­plied meat, but were good at turn­ing waste into ma­nure. Un­til

Air freight does pro­vide the op­por­tu­nity to get cat­tle into in­land ar­eas.”

re­cently, beef— once known as “mil­lion­aire’s meat” — was very rare.

Hog meat now ac­counts for less than 60 per­cent of to­tal pro­tein de­mand in China com­pared with more than 90 per­cent three decades ago, ac­cord­ing to New Hope Group Co, the na­tion’s big­gest maker of an­i­mal feed.

That means the rise of a $60 bil­lion-a-year beef mar­ket. And in China, al­most ev­ery part of the an­i­mal is used.

“The of­fal and the bones and all that prod­uct is used in a man­ner that is even be­yond our imag­i­na­tion,” said Scot Braith­waite, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of live­stock ex­porter Wel­lard Group. “The bones get one use, to be boiled and used for soups, and they dry it out and use it again as a ba­sis for Chi­nese medicine.”

Con­sumers in China will pay more than in other mar­kets for top-grade beef when they’re cer­tain it’s been reared in Aus­tralia, said Braith­waite.

On the in­au­gu­ral flight of an­i­mals for slaugh­ter, An­gus and Here­ford cat­tle were packed onto the air­craft’s main deck. Up­stairs, there was room for a few hu­man es­corts.

The cows were given lim­ited food and wa­ter be­fore the trip to re­duce the mess they’d make dur­ing ship­ment. What they did ex­crete dur­ing the 13-hour flight was soaked up by ab­sorbent mats, which were de­stroyed at the des­ti­na­tion, along with the crates.

Once in China, the cows were lifted onto trucks with a crane, to be taken to the quar­an­tine area. That site must be within 90 kilo­me­ters of the ar­rival port, ac­cord­ing to­Hall.

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