When a Bag of Pricey Pork in China Becomes a Luxury Holiday Gift

A customer buys pork at a market in Shanghai, China.

Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

A video showing scores of furniture store employees lining up to receive a bag of fatty pork has gone viral in China, a show of how surging prices have turned swine meat into a luxury holiday gift.

The company’s 500 workers requested a kilo of meat each over the traditional red bean-filled mooncakes that are usually doled out ahead of the Mid-Autumn festival that falls on Thursday this year. Comments on social-media site Weibo showed viewers appreciated the move as pork has now become an extravagance.

Pork had become a prized product in recent years after the spread of African swine fever across China slashed the top consumer’s local supplies in half and pushed prices to a record high. However, there are signs that the era of wearing pork around your neck as a sign of wealth may be drawing to a close, thanks to a recovery in domestic herd.

China's pork price surge eases on domestic herd recovery

Chinese wholesale pork prices fell by almost 5% in September from a month earlier, the biggest drop since May, according to commerce ministry data. China’s high pork prices have been a major driver of the country’s food inflation. Still, they remain about 25% higher than a year ago.

More pork supplies from a recovery in the domestic herd may continue to cool down prices in the fourth quarter, though the market will remain tight for a while, said Zhu Zengyong, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

The Chinese government has also increased sales from state pork reserves this month to try to damp prices ahead of holidays. The government offered 10,000 tons of imported pork on Tuesday after selling a total of 40,000 tons on Sept. 25 and Sept. 18, according to China Merchandise Reserve Management Center, which manages state pork reserves.

— With assistance by Anna Kitanaka, and Shuping Niu