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Inner Mongolia targets boom in mutton industry


Updated: 2015-08-19

As a key mutton production area in China, Inner Mongolia is home to many breeds of sheep. One of them, the Sonid sheep is a National Geographical Indication Protection product and included in the National Protection List of Livestock and Poultry Genetic Resources.

Sonid sheep are mainly bred in the Sonid left and right banners on the west of Xilingol Grassland.

Inner Mongolia targets boom in mutton industry
A shepherd pastures a group of Sonid sheep. [Photo/China Daily]

Thanks to the climate and vegetation on the Xilingol Grassland, the meat from a natural-grazed Sonid sheep is fresh and tender, with low fat and no smell. This kind of mutton was historical used as tribute to the royals. Since they naturally graze on the grassland, Sonid sheep are also called grassland sheep.

A female Sonid can give birth to only one lamb per year. At present, there are about one million ewes, and each sheep can produce only about 10 kilograms of mutton per year. The output of authentic Sonid mutton is no more than 10,000 tons per year.

At present, a traceability system system was set up for Sonid sheep. Each sheep is earmarked immediately after birth, and the traceability system will follow it from lamb to mutton.

Inner Mongolia is becoming China’s agricultural and livestock base, producing 22 percent of the nation’s sheep.

Inner Mongolia targets boom in mutton industry
An assembly line for mutton production. [Photo/China Daily]

The region has advantages in resources, technology and professionals in sheep industry, as well as government support. In 2014, the country produced 4.09 million tons of mutton, 930,000 tons of which came from Inner Mongolia. However, these figures are far from enough compared to Chinese consumers’ population. Therefore, Inner Mongolia’s mutton industry has great potential, according to Zhang Zhigang, an expert in the meat sheep industry.

As more and more Inner Mongolian companies go global, such as Yili Group, the region is expected to cultivate leading meat companies.

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