Smithfield Purchase Stirs Discussion At World Pork Expo

Iowa Farm Scene

U.S. pork producers cite opportunity to export more pork to China, but concerns remain.

Published on: June 10, 2013

China has a growing income, a growing middle class and Chinese consumers are looking to purchase more meat. China has one-third of the world's population. "When you hear concerns about foreign investment in U.S. companies you always have mixed emotions," says Sam Carney, a former president of the National Pork Producers Council, who has a crop and livestock farming operation at Adair, west of Des Moines. "But I always say you need to sit down and let cooler heads prevail. I believe this is an excellent opportunity to sell more pork to China." About $900 million of pork is shipped annually to China and Hong Kong, and about 30% of it comes from Iowa.

Chinese visitors met with Iowa ag leaders and commercial exhibitors at Pork Expo

A delegation of Chinese officials from Iowa's sister state in China, Hebei province, attended the World Pork Expo June 5-7 in Des Moines. In the group were 25 presidents and representatives of Chinese agricultural companies and farming operations. The Chinese visited with the many commercial exhibitors at the three-day event at the Iowa state fairgrounds.

"The Chinese are interested in purchasing U.S. technology and breeding stock," observes Bob Riley, owner of Feed Energy Company, headquartered in Des Moines, which had an exhibit at the World Pork Expo. "And they operate on such a huge scale in that country." Riley, along with Cal Halstead, sales director for Feed Energy, which produces liquid feed ingredients, visited with a Chinese delegate who manages a farming operation in China that produces 50 million chickens. Another Chinese visitor they spoke with is president of a hog farming operation that markets 7 million hogs a year. Another has a huge number of dairy cows.

Smithfield's U.S. hog numbers are a drop in the bucket compared to China's

"The scale of their livestock and poultry operations in China is hard to get your mind wrapped around until you compare it with the size of typical Iowa operations," says Riley. For example, the entire state of Iowa has 20.6 million hogs, and 60 million laying hens. Iowa is the leading state in the U.S. for egg production and hog production.