On the historical context of pigs and pork in agricultural China:
Historically, pigs were more valuable alive than dead. Farmers relied on pigs to convert kitchen scraps and agricultural byproducts into nutrient-rich fertil- izer that nourished the production of grain-based diets (Schmalzer, 2002; Wittwer et al., 1987). In the value-unity of pigs and manure, although pigs were a staple of farming systems and households, for most Chinese people, pork was a rare treat. In other words, before the emergence of capitalist agroindustrialization, it was pigs, not pork, that were of the highest value, and manure was an important resource in rural China, rather than a form of ‘waste’.
On what the pork industry is today:
Today half of the world’s pigs, half of the world’s pork production, and half of the world’s pork consumption is in China… pig farming in the reform era has gone from a small-scale household activity to a multi-billion yuan industry, touted as more profitable than even the real estate sector (Hu, 2010).
On the past and present culture of pork:
Several people whom I inter- viewed in Northeast China described the monotony of seemingly endless meals of rice, cabbage (baicai), and steamed buns (mantou) during that time, and how meatless dinners and intermittent cou- pons constructed feelings of scarcity and desire. A man who grew up in Liaoning province in the early 1970s said, ‘‘When I was a boy, my dream was to eat meat. Today I can eat meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I want to. . .this is progress.”
As an agribusiness executive in Shanghai said, ‘‘Pork signifies wealth. The more money you have, the more pork you will eat.” These sentiments illustrate the changing value of pigs and pork, and the way those values have come to define the modern era.
On why food/feed for pigs is imported:
The oft-cited statistic is that China has 21% of the world’s population, but only 9% of the arable land and 8% of water resources. In order to efficiently use such a limited amount of land to feed such a mas- sive population, CAFOs are the best, and in fact the only, way to bring about modern, meat-centric diets: through concentration, they occupy relatively small amounts of land physically within China, operating instead through the fruits of land and production systems in North and South America where the feed for China’s pigs is produced (see Schneider, 2014).
On how pig manure is so plentiful and concentrated that it cannot be reintegrated into the local agricultural cycle and is instead causing:
In 2010, the country’s first national pollution census (Zhongguo wuran yuan pucha) revealed that agriculture was a bigger source of water pollution than industry (China Pollution Source Census, 2010).