Dietary Change in China’s Cities: Empirical Fact or Urban Legend?
Over the last two decades, urban Chinese consumers have dramatically increased their consumption of meat, other livestock products, and fruits and have decreased consumption of grainbased foods. China’s per capita grain consumption declined from 145 kilograms in 1981 to 78 kilograms in 2004 in urban areas, whereas the per capita consumption of meats, eggs, and aquatic products increased respectively from 20, 5, and 7 kilograms in 1981 to 29, 10, and 12 kilograms in 2004. As signifi cant changes in food consumption patterns in urban China are noted, it is natural to ask: Are consumer responses to price changes and income growth entirely responsible for the transformation in food consumption in urban China, or have consumers in urban China changed their preferences for foods? Our recent CARD study examined the empirical evidence for structural change in urban diets in China. The study’s fi ndings may be good news for U.S. food industries seeking entry into the Chinese market.