China is home to 1.4 billion people and is the world’s largest market for meat, consuming 86 million tons annually - more than twice the amount eaten in the US.
Meat consumption (poultry, pork, beef, veal) in China have grown from 42kg per capita in 2000 to a projected 48kg per capita in 2019, said the Fitch Solutions agribusiness team, which produced the report.
Furthermore, it is forecast to grow 16% to reach 56kg per capita by 2023.
Spending on meat and poultry by Chinese consumers is also forecast to grow 9.3% over this period, to reach RMB3.6 trillion (US$505bn).
The report added: “Production has not been able to keep up with demand, with China’s meat self-sufficiency rates declining and the country becoming more reliant on imports.”
“We believe that the two recent developments of an increase of tariffs on US soya bean (increasing the cost of feed for Chinese pig farmers) and African swine flu epidemic (mass -culling of pigs ) will be increasing the focus on meat security in China and will act to drive demand momentum for fake meat.”
The report suggests that food security will be the main driver, with ethical, environmental and health concerns lagging behind.
In terms of environmental concern, the report said Chinese consumers would take a longer time to develop the connection between meat consumption and the environmental impact.
A survey conducted by the Energy Foundation China in 2017 found just 12.3% of respondents would pay attention to environmental news, which comes after social, political and economic news.
In terms of ethical considerations, cultural or religious reasons mostly led to consumers choosing a plant-based diet.
The report said that 18% of the Chinese population were vegetarians, and already consuming alternative meat products.
While it is uncommon in China, animal welfare may also eventually play a role too.
“Concerns do exist and have been acted upon, with a number of animal welfare laws passed in China in the last decade,” noted the report.
The report also pointed out that organisations advocating for vegetarian and vegan organisations were not well established in China.
When it comes to health concerns, while there is a shift in the Chinese diet to increase vegetable intake, meat still remains an important component in consumers’ diet.
The main concern here still appears to be the safety of meat, rather than its health implications.
The report added that alternative meat was not a new development for China, because it has been a part of the national cuisine since the Tang Dynasty with imitation meat made from plants such as seitan and tofu.
“The fake meat trend can be viewed as the next step in this tradition as opposed to a completely new developing, making the embracing of this trend by consumers much more likely,” it added.