The Chinese eat so much pork that when its price goes up, the cost of other things rises, too. For the Communist Party, therefore, keeping affordable meat on the table is vital, not least for the stability of the economy. In 2007, for example, an estimated 45m pigs died in China from “blue ear pig disease”. Pork prices rocketed; the annual rate of increase of the consumer price index (sometimes known as the “consumer pig index” because of the creature’s prominent role in it) hit a ten-year high. Panic buying ensued. There were reports of customers being injured in a crush on a supermarket escalator when rushing to buy cheap chilled pork in Guangzhou, and a general pork-buying frenzy across China. Imports doubled.
In response the party established the world’s first pork reserve, some of it in frozen form and some the live, snorting variety.