Editorial: Alternatives to pork

ACCORDING to the Department of Agriculture (DA) Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), the per capita consumption of Filipinos for pork meat is at 15 kilograms (kg), while demand is at around 1.5 million metric tons.

In comparison, based on the 2018 data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), chicken consumption is at 13 kg/capita and beef and veal at 3.1 kg/capita.

In its Agricultural Outlook for world meat markets for the period 2019-28, OECD said Philippines will be among the countries "with noteworthy potential contributions" to additional meat production in the global market. This is due to "due to rapidly increasing domestic demand."

It added that "the Asian region will continue to dominate in the area of meat imports, accounting for 56 percent of global trade." Among the countries Asia that is predicted to have an increase in meat importation is the Philippines.

Consumers have been avoiding pork and its by-products, with the outbreak of the African Swine Fever in the Philippines (ASF). According to the DA and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), hog infected with the ASF is still safe for consumption. Despite the assurance from the DA or OIE, consumers remain wary of the pork and its by-products. Based on the market watch conducted by SunStar Davao in recent weeks, vendors of pork meat noted a decrease in the demand for the pork.

With the culling of pigs in ASF affected areas, DA-BAI said "pork production in the Philippines is not enough to ensure food security."

Being an important protein source for Filipinos, the DA is looking for alternative protein source to Filipinos. At the top of our heads, we would automatically shift to the popular staples like chicken, beef, and seafood.

However, DA is recommending a source of protein that is unfamiliar to Filipinos -- the rabbit.

"Those are all options. We have talked with them na we are supportive of their industry. Kasi ang growth cycle noon ay mas lesser than other potential substitute. It will be cheaper. We are serious. All options are on the table. But poultry is number 1," DA Secretary William Dar was quoted saying in a GMA News Online report. He added that it tastes like chicken.

However, globally, rabbit is eaten by a handful of the global population. It is eaten in several European and Asian countries like Italy, Spain, and China. It is also popularly associated with French cuisine. It is also eaten in the United States.

According to an article on livestrong.com, rabbit is considered a healthy alternative to certain proteins.

"Due to its low fat content, rabbit meat can make it easier to reduce your calorie intake without giving up flavor. It's just as nutritious as fish and higher in protein than many cuts of beef," the article reads.

With pork being ingrained in the Filipino cusine, it will not be easy for Filipinos to adjust with a new protein. However, if you do not want to take any chances, the best bet for you during the ASF outbreak is the chicken, beef, seafood, and the rabbit meat.

Learning from ASF, the government and livestock industry will need to upgrade its quarantine and food safety practices to ensure that these other livestock are free from other diseases.


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