Vietnamese are now buying more Japanese beef, US chicken and Australian lamb for their family meals, putting pressure on the domestic animal husbandry industry.
A report from the Department of Livestock Production showed that in the first seven months of 2015, Vietnam imported 210,000 cows from Australia, which was even higher than the total import volume of the year before. In 2014, Vietnam imported 181,000 Australian cows, or 2.7 times higher than 2013.
Australian beef is more affordable to Vietnamese with the price of between VND250,000 and VND590,000 per kilo. Meanwhile, high-quality Angus tenderloin is priced at VND975,000 per kilo.
A local newspaper commented that Vietnamese are willing to spend big money on beef while they are not sure about the quality.
Manh Hoai Duc, a supplier of fresh meat in Hanoi, said that imported frozen meat is less delicious than Vietnam’s fresh meat.
“Frozen meat cannot be as good as fresh meat because of dehydration,” he said. Meanwhile, Vietnam’s fresh beef is sold at VND250,000-270,000 per kilo.
Vietnamese believe that imports are always good, but in fact, they also have different levels of quality. The supplier said there are different types of cows – pastured and farmed cows – which produce different quality of beef.
“Chilled meat carried to Vietnam by air is good. But it is expensive,” he said.
Hai, the owner of Hoang Hai beef supply center, agrees that fresh meat is the best choice, and that people buy imports because they think they are better than Vietnam’s.
Steven Long, a famous chef at a luxury restaurant in HCMC, commented that the quality of beef depends on the breed, the way they are bred, and the climate. Therefore, Australian beef products have different price levels, from VND250,000 to VND800,000 per kilo.
He said that in many cases, Vietnamese are overcharged, as the products they get do not reserve the high prices they pay.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Thanh Binh, a chef in Binh Duong province, said Vietnamese have reasons to prefer imports to domestic products.
“They understand that fresh meat has high nutrition, but they still buy imports because domestic products don’t have clear origin,” he commented, adding that food hygiene is now the biggest concern.
Lao Dong cited a UPEMI report as saying that meat imports from the EU have increased by 7.5 times in the last three years.