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Modernizing China's Meat Supply Chains

  • Date: 12 February 2015
  • Author: Erin Simon, WWF
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On Feb. 6, the Woodrow Wilson Center hosted a roundtable, “Innovative Partnerships to Improve China's Meat Supply Chains.” Speakers discussed how industry, policymakers, and NGOs can support the modernization of China's meat supply chains to ensure domestic and global food safety. As a part of that event, Erin Simon from World Wildlife Fund shared with the panel an innovative partnership between WWF and packaging company, Sealed Air, to minimize the environmental footprint of poultry, and to implement best practices for better food safety, sustainable packaging, storage, and retail distribution of poultry products in China.

See our new infographic for more information about the global effect of China's poultry industry (PDF).


In the next two decades, the global market growth for poultry will be 60 million tons -- two thirds of which is expected to occur in China: an area of the world where the local farmers and communities are already challenged by limited local grains production, lack of arable land and access to clean water.

With this exceedingly fast market growth, it is easy to see why China continues to struggle with consistent farm management, productivity, and food safety and disease prevention. Just as recent as 2013, a single Avian Influenza outbreak accounted for $6.5 billion loss alone.

A chicken retailer in China

As a conservation organization, we understand the great deal of resources that go into growing and feeding each chicken –which include feed, energy, land, water, soil, chemicals, and emissions. Any amount of loss due to disease or waste equals the loss of resources to grow and process the chickens and the potential for increased demands on already stressed land and water resources.

What is unique to this situation is the fact that China’s poultry market is in transition, moving from small backyard farms and wet markets to larger more commercial farms and retail markets. This change is happening quicker than the industry can react. According to the FAO, loss occurring throughout the poultry supply chain is somewhat spread out, although a great deal of that loss, just over 50 percent, is happening in the distribution and retail or food service portion of the value chains.

To address these challenges, World Wildlife Fund has formed an innovative partnership with packaging company, Sealed Air, to minimize the environmental footprint of poultry and to implement best practices for a sustainable supply chain that addresses food safety, packaging, storage, and distribution of poultry products in China for retail and food service applications. The China Food Security Program includes WWF-China network offices and local non-governmental organizations like the China Chain and Franchise Association.

The whole premise for the China Food Security Program is to take into account the entire value chain, partner with key actors and develop a model for improved value chain efficiency and safety while decreasing loss. Specifically, the program focusses on overall decrease of environmental impacts and food waste along with increased food safety and hygiene throughout the poultry supply chain.

“What is unique to this situation is the fact that China’s poultry market is in transition, moving from small backyard farms and wet markets to larger more commercial farms and retail markets. This change is happening quicker than the industry can react.”

Erin Simon
Manager, Packaging and Material Science, WWF

The program aims to develop guidelines and best management practices across the value chain, select partner commitments for improvements, and continue and expand government outreach. After the first year of the program, we are making solid progress on baseline research, including a retail survey quantifying food loss and the causes of that loss; a study of the Yangtze basin identifying the impact of the poultry industry; and a poultry production lifecycle assessment to quantify the impacts of various production methods. All of this will form the foundation for building best management practices and engaging the Chinese government and consumers.

Through the China Food Security Program, we look forward to engaging additional value chain partners throughout the poultry supply chain in retail, food service, and production in order to take a holistic approach in solving these big challenges. By joining the project now, stakeholders will have the opportunity to help shape the guidelines and benefit first from key project outcomes. Additionally, these initiatives will lead to reduced risk in supply chains, and help strengthen brands and reputations.


The Woodrow Wilson Event and materials are available here.

Note: The China Food Security Program is funded by Sealed Air.

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