As Chinese demand for pork grows and grows, traditional small-scale farms are being replaced by vast, AI-assisted operations that feel more like smartphone factories.
Some of the most delicious pork in China is currently being produced by one of the world’s largest, most profitable internet gaming companies. Since 2009, NetEase has been perfecting the art of raising pigs. The story began when Ding Lei, the company’s founder, was eating hotpot with friends and began to worry that the blood tofu, a traditional ingredient made of coagulated pigs blood, was synthetic. At that moment, Ding’s business plans turned from gaming into pig farming.
Ding set up a new agricultural products division, known as Weiyang. A decade on, its pork is now available online and at special Weiyang retail stores scattered across China’s software capital, Hangzhou.
The company’s farm in Lushan has the precision of an electronics factory and the feeling of a totally sterile, meticulously managed resort. The pigs on the farm live an optimised life, with a precisely calibrated amount of exercise and a carefully composed swill mix. They even listen to a soothing soundtrack for stress relief. This music helps improve the meat. Stress before slaughter can alter a pig’s metabolism, increasing levels of cortisol and resulting in what is known in the industry as “DFD” (dark, firm, dry) meat.
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