Consumers in Thailand have turned to crocodile meat in the face of soaring pork prices.
Crocodile meat is now more affordable than pork, while consumers say it is a delicious alternative that “tastes like chicken.”
A wave of African Swine Fever (ASF) has swept through Thailand, wreaking havoc on the country’s pig farming industry since last year.
Thai pig farmers have lost their businesses due to massive deaths, while pork shortages in Thailand have caused prices to soar, from 150 baht per kilogram to up to 240 baht (LAK 80,000) per kilogram.
Crocodile farms are now cashing in on the pork crisis, with increased demand seeing the price of the reptile meat rising to between 80 and 190 baht per kilogram (LAK 27,000 to 65,000) from 50 to 100 baht.
Bulk purchases attract cheaper prices, with the most expensive part being the tail, which vendors say contains soft meat that is low in fat.
But even with rising prices, crocodile meat remains far cheaper than pork.
Until recently, crocodiles were farmed mainly for their skins which are sold to the fashion industry, while the meat was exported for use in specialty restaurants, especially Chinese restaurants, that serve exotic meats.
According to a report by Nikkei Asia, Thailand’s Agriculture Ministry says some 1,150 people in Thailand either own a crocodile farm or are involved in the crocodile trading business.
Around 1.2 million crocodiles are raised per year, of which 60% are processed for meat exports to China, while 40% go to the leather business.
However, with the increased interest by the public, crocodile farmers – who need to raise their animals for at least three to four years before they can be sold – are thinking seriously about expanding.