British poultry processors are missing a trick by paying for disposal of chicken feet, which could be exported to China where retailers such as Tesco are struggling to meet demand.
So wrote environment secretary Owen Paterson in his online diary of his trade mission to China. In Shanghai last week (November 14). Paterson visited Tesco’s store, which stocks predominantly Chinese goods, with a small section for imported products.
Paterson wrote in his diary: “I was looking out for chicken feet, which are a delicacy over here. The store manager said he has to bring them in from Brazil because he can’t get enough of them.
“What is a wasted by-product of the poultry industry in the UK can be sold here, adding value.”
Paterson informed the store manager about a Northern Irish poultry producer which produces 9M chicken feet a week and has to pay to dispose of them. He put the two parties in touch so that they could strike a deal.
Later, he had “a very positive meeting” with Chinese firms that were considering investing in the UK. He helped them to identify suitable investment opportunities, which will be followed up when the Chinese party visits the UK in March next year.
£100bn of annual trade
Paterson said: “With Britain and China having agreed a target of £100bn annual trade between the two countries by 2015, it was an incredibly useful meeting.”
According to Paterson, a “whole number of other unexpected opportunities for UK businesses” had emerged during the trip with “enormous potential” for British business.
China imported food to the value of £36bn in 2010/11. In terms of British brands, whisky, biscuits, sweets and Scottish smoked salmon were big sellers.
Paterson plans to make trade easier by clarifying China’s complex food safety regulations and clamping down on counterfeiting.
He wrote: “With reliable trade and freight routes and more certainty over imports and custom regulations then British firms could be out here in even greater numbers. It’s something we’ll be putting a real priority on resolving over the coming months.”
Chinese acquire western tastes
As the Chinese become wealthier, they are starting to consume more dairy- and protein-based products as their tastes become more aligned with the western diet.
The cuts of the animal they choose to consume will also change, according to British pork processor Cranswick, which has boosted sales this year by exporting ‘fifth quarter’ pork products (feet, tails and offal) to China.
Cranswick’s sales and marketing director, Jim Brisby, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “The Chinese are the biggest consumers of pork in the world. They’re currently interested in cuts of the meat that are shunned by UK consumers, which includes the feet, tails, offal and tripe.
“However, there’s every indication that, as their markets become more aligned to the western diet, they will start to eat their way up the pig.”
Brisby predicted dramatic changes in Chinese consumption patterns. He said: “It’s already happening. The closer you go to the cities, the more you see people favouring a western diet. In the next 10 years we will see some dramatic changes.”