China — the world’s largest market for beef, pork and poultry — is steadily growing wary of meat as health-conscious Chinese are taking to a vegetarian diet that has sparked mushrooming of vegan restaurants in the world’s most populous country.
China’s restaurant industry over the past few years is reporting growing number of entrepreneurs looking to capitalise on the popularity of healthy eating, which usually means a meatless, organic and environmentally-friendly diet.
The niche market of vegetarian and vegan eateries has never been more competitive, a recent report from various cities complied by the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said.
Han Lili, a Shanghai-based artist who has tracked and mapped vegetarian and vegan restaurants in major Chinese cities including Shanghai, Chengdu, Lhasa, and Hong Kong since 2012, said it had been difficult to accurately count the number in operation in the past year or two because the market changed so rapidly.
In Shanghai, China’s largest city, the number of vegan outlets soared from 49 in 2012 to more than 100 last year, she said. In Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, almost half the 80 eateries needed updating after her last count.
A report by research firm Euromonitor said though China is still the world’s biggest market for pork, beef and poultry, the demand showed a decline in recent years.
A report by Chinadialogue.net said sales of pork declined from 42.49 million tonnes in 2014 to 40.85 million tonnes in 2016. A new dietary guideline issued by China’s health industry two years ago also suggested eating less meat, poultry and seafood.
The Chinese meat industry adds around 150 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year, according to one study.
The growing trend of vegetarianism showed more Chinese turning to fruits and vegetables. China currently consumes 40 per cent of the world’s fruit and vegetables, indicating the growing trend of vegetarianism in China.
UN trade figures show that between 2010 and 2016, China’s imports of avocados rose from 1.9 tonnes to 25,000 tonnes a 13,000-fold increase.
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