Feeding the Seoul

21 Oct 2015

One of the main themes discussed at the Slow Food Asia Pacific Festival 2015 (November 18 – 22) will be the production and consumption of meat. The focus, as is always the case for Slow Food, will be on eating less meat but of better quality.


Discussed against the backdrop of a country engulfed in high levels of imports and increasingly intensive farming practices, we decided to take a closer look at meat production in the country.


The rapid pace of industrialization (bearing in mind that South Korea is now the 15th biggest economy in the world) in the South Korea has meant that the contribution of its agricultural sector to national GDP has shrunk from around one quarter of GDP in 1970 to less than 3% in 2014. What’s more, owing to the liberalization of markets, encouraged by successive governments, barriers to trade have been demolished via the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the shape of several free trade agreements (FTA), in recent years with Chile, the EU, Australia, the USA and Canada. This has affected a huge change in the country’s agriculture.


Imported products – which have been steadily increasing in number – have tended to be cheaper than domestic products. This coupled with the rising incomes of Koreans have assured the success of products imported into Korea. This has provoked regular protests from Korean farmers as production within the country is growing in scale.


The most commonly raised beef, from Hanwoo cattle, is traditionally a draft animal and was commonly raised on rice farms in small numbers. Nowadays though, this breed is increasingly being fed on grains and other concentrates as intensive production and the amount of feedlots grow. In fact, in just over 10 years, the slaughter weight of Hanwoo cattle rose from 485 kg to 605 kg.           


Although pig farm numbers have been in a state of decline, there has been a steady increase in the total number of pigs that are raised – rising from around 8 million in 2000 to around 10 million in 2014. Today farms with over 1,000 dominate the sector and furthermore, the slaughter weight of pigs has also increased over time.


The same trend can be seen with chicken farms. Despite government restrictions on the maximum farm size, owing to environmental concerns, the trend toward larger, more efficient farms continues. As such the majority of chickens are raised on farms with 40,000 birds or more.


The consumption and production of meat though, is only one of the many topics of discussion at Slow Food Asia Pacific Festival 2015. Fishery management, focusing on the coexistence of the sea, fishers and consumers as well as the importance of biodiversity are just two more examples of topics that will feature in a series of conferences. On top of this Ark of Taste and Presidia products will be exhibited, Earth Markets will be held, and Taste Workshops will be run by the Terra Madre network. This is just a glimpse of the multitude of events on offer in November. 


Find out more about the event at www.slowfoodfestival.org






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