by Vivian Yang
The recent growth of the sheep industry in Ningxia has paved the way for an increasing number of Gen-Zers to return to their hometowns and become actively involved in the integration of traditional sheep farming practices with emerging sales channels. Leveraging e-commerce and logistics infrastructure and technological resources, the production of Tan mutton has become more standardized with strict quality control measures to be offered to the market, including on JD’s online stores.
The Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in China is home to a highly regarded breed of sheep, commonly referred to the Benchland Sheep, also known as the Tan Sheep. Known as “Blue Blood among all sheep,” these remarkable creatures are raised on a diet of Yellow River water and saline-alkaline grassland, resulting in meat that is exceptionally tender and delicious, with a notably low fat content and a subtle aroma.
To date, JD.com has lent its support to more than 30 Tan mutton merchants on its online supermarket platform, offering comprehensive services ranging from marketing and logistics to supply chain technologies and beyond. As a result of this support, total annual sales of Tan mutton surpassed RMB 200 million yuan in 2022, with an impressive two-year compound growth rate of nearly 30 percent.
An increasing number of young villagers have discovered that involvement in the Tan sheep industry offers greater financial rewards than city-based employment, providing tangible proof of JD’s rural revitalization initiative – – “March to Rich Plan.”
In addition to its support of the Tan sheep industry, JD.com has leveraged its advanced digitally intelligent supply chain to bolster over 2,000 industrial belts and hundreds of agricultural production zones across the country, enabling modernization of production methods and brand-building efforts. The ultimate aim of this endeavor is to cultivate a virtuous cycle of high-quality products, enhanced consumer demand, and a sustainable increase in farmers’ incomes.
The succulent mutton hailing from the region nestled in the northwest of China and surrounded by deserts on three sides was handpicked as a staple ingredient for China’s state banquets hosted during the G20, BRICS, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization summits. However, the delicacies produced in this region have historically been challenging to access for people residing in other parts of the country.
A decade ago, local farmers found themselves restricted to selling their sheep solely within their immediate vicinity resulting in inconsistent and often fluctuating income due to the fluctuating pricing of lamb and varying purchase rates from year to year.
Over the course of the past five years, e-commerce has emerged as a powerful tool for connecting farmers with enterprises for collaborative efforts on sheep breeding, meat processing, transportation, and more. As a result of this surge in connectivity, Tan sheep has experienced a surge in popularity among consumers throughout China. JD’s support to Xigouyan village is a case in this point.
“I have a stock of 10,000 sheep this year, and the sales contract was signed a long time ago,” said a farmer surnamed Ma from this village.
“Nowadays, I no longer worry about where or how to sell my sheep. Instead, I can focus solely on raising high-quality sheep and earning a comfortable profit. In good years, I can earn 1 million yuan.” he added.
Ren Jie, the founder of the mutton brand “Tan Sheep Fresh”, is one of the buyers of Ma and his fellow villagers’ sheep. Ren is among the pioneering merchants who set up flagship stores on JD.com in the early days to directly sell Tan mutton to consumers.
After graduating from college, Ren made the decision to return to his hometown in Ningxia, where he established an e-commerce business in 2014 with the intention of introducing the region’s unique agricultural specialties to consumers across the nation. To his amazement, the Tan mutton offering in his online store enjoyed unprecedented success, netting him over 800,000 yuan in just six months stint.
Ren established his brand in 2018 and his business took off on JD.com, exceeding annual sales of 100 million yuan and boasting an impressive annual growth rate of 30 percent over the past three years. Previously, the peak sales season for Tan mutton was confined to the winter season. However, with the assistance of JD Logistics’ cold chain delivery system, Ren’s business has experienced a surge in year-round sales, making his mutton accessible to consumers throughout the year.
Ren’s support for the local community earned him the affectionate nickname of “Mr. Tan Sheep” among the locals, who are grateful for his support.
Read more about JD’s “March to Rich” initiative that has helped hairy crabs, premier rice and more agricultural products to be marketable.