The first batch of imported US beef arrives at a warehouse of e-commerce platform Fruit Day in Shanghai in June. (Photo/Courtesy of Fruit Day)
High-priced imported U.S. meat attracts Chinese beef-lovers, but challenges foreign rivals instead of domestic ones: experts
Starting from June 20, U.S. beef is now permitted for exportation to China after the country's quality watchdog lifted a 14-year ban which was spawned by scare over mad cow disease. Over the past few days, imported U.S. beef started being sold at major supermarkets and e-commerce platforms such as Sam's Club, Fruit Day and Tmall. Since U.S. beef reentered the Chinese market almost two weeks ago, the Global Times has been speaking with several selling platforms, domestic suppliers and experts to find out the sales performance of imported beef and its influence on the domestic market.
U.S. beef, which recently reentered China after a 14-year import ban was lifted, seems to be satisfying some Chinese consumers' appetites despite a higher-than-expected price.
"The first batch of imported U.S. short rib sold out within the five days after June 26, the day it showed up on the shelves of the Sam's Club outlet in Beijing's Shijingshan district," a spokesperson, surnamed Li, from Wal-Mart Investment Co told the Global Times.
Sam's Club, a membership store under U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart Store Inc, is the first physical store to sell beef from the U.S. after shipment resumed.
Priced at 178 yuan () per jin (500 grams), the first batch of beef is vacuum packed and arrived in China by air within 30 hours of export from the U.S., Li said, adding that the beef is subjected to "limited availability."
The second batch of U.S. beef is expected to go on sale "soon," with more selections of beef cut set to become available, such as rib eye steak and sirloin, she said.
In addition to physical store channels, China's major e-commerce platforms also started to sell U.S. beef a few days ago.
At grocery O2O platform Fruit Day, the imported U.S. beef is priced between 158 to 178 yuan for every 200 grams. A spokesperson from the company told the Global Times on Thursday that "sales have been robust" ever since the beef debuted at the platform on June 30, but she did not disclose the exact number.
Alibaba-backed business-to-customer marketplace Tmall is also one of the first online shopping websites to import U.S. beef. So far, the platform has seen 158 packages of specific U.S. beef rib that weigh 907 grams being sold at 378 yuan.
"The U.S. beef has high marbling and looks good, so why not give it a try? As a beef-lover, I'm excited to have more options on my dining table," an online meat shopper, who bought the U.S. beef rib on Tmall, told the Global Times on the condition of anonymity.
Another consumer, a 30-year-old Beijing resident surnamed Wang, agreed. "When I fried the steak, I could smell the flavor, and it tasted delicious, juicy and a little bit sweet," she told the Global Times.
But despite the tempting flavor, Wang noted that she would not buy U.S. beef too often because "the price is not very affordable."
High price, high-end market
Prior to its market arrival, domestic consumers expected the imported beef to be sold at a relatively affordable price, as the beef produced and sold in the U.S. is much cheaper than that produced and sold in China.
A report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that every 45.4 kilograms of beef is charged at 6 to 6 in the U.S., which translates to 8 yuan to 10 yuan per gram.