Aussie beef boost for China’s soccer team

Lisa Martin
AAP, as published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 October 2014

Could Australian cows help end China’s national embarrassment on the soccer field?

The country’s men’s team is currently rated 97th in the world – a result Snowdragon Beef Company spokesman Chen Hong partly attributes to a lack of premium bovine protein.

“The Chinese football team cannot be ranked among the best in the world,” he says through a translator.

“One reason is that top quality beef is not widely available.”

The Chinese are ushering in “the age of beef” but they need Australia’s help.

Some analysts estimate China will have to ramp up imports by 20 per cent in the next five years to plug the domestic supply shortage.

Last year, Australia’s beef exports to China were up by a whopping 371 per cent to 154,833 tonnes, according to Meat and Livestock Australia.

And with a free trade deal expected to be settled within weeks, those figures will continue climbing.

The current tariff on Australian beef is 18.6 per cent, while similarly high-quality New Zealand beef is almost tariff-free after the Kiwis cut a deal with China back in 2008.

The Australian beef industry is also set to cash in on tariff reductions in the South Korean and Japanese markets under bilateral agreements struck earlier in 2014.

Back in Dalian, in China’s northeast, Snowdragon has imported 3000 tonnes of chilled Australian Angus beef in the past two years.

The imports complement the company’s own stock-raising operations catering for the high-end restaurant and hotel market.

Australian veterinary researchers have helped the company with its breeding program.

Its herd numbers 30,000 and each beast produces 250 kilograms of beef worth 2000 renminbi or $400 Australian per kilo.

The company has pioneered a unique way of fattening cattle – a 28-month in-barn all-you-can-eat feedlot and spa treatment program.

Giant mechanical massage brushes keep the cows nice and limber.

On the day AAP visits, an instrumental rendition of Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven plays over a PA system for the 400 odd occupants of barn 22.

These cows have six months until they meet their maker.

Mr Chen says easy listening music helps keeps the cows relaxed, conserves their energy and boosts meat flavour.

Austrade spokeswoman Fiona Yu says Aussie beef is hitting the right note with Chinese restaurant goers.

“When your friends tell you `let’s go off to have Australian steak for dinner’, it’s seen as a luxury,” she told AAP.

This article was originally published here. 

Lisa Martin was in China for the China Australia Journalist Exchange 2014.