Harvard students seek meaty profits from alpaca

Updated: 2014-12-29 13:24

By Lian Zi in San Francisco(China Daily USA)

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Alpacas are primarily bred for their fibers, not their meat.

Qin Kou and Vincent Li, Chinese overseas students at Harvard University, however, send US alpaca meat to China and sell it on Taobao.

Qin, 28, a second-year graduate student at the Public Health School at Harvard, told China Daily that he refused a job offer from a Silicon Valley-based high-tech company and planed to go back China after graduation.

"Instead of working in cubicles, I have more passion to explore more opportunities and possibilities by establishing my own business," he said.

Qin wants to be the first person who brings alpaca to China.

"This is a brand new species to the Chinese and a brand new industry to China," Qin said. "The insatiable demand for this animal and the extremely limited supply create a huge opportunity for us," Qin said he came up with the idea after he tasted alpaca meat at a local farm in Boston.

"It is very tasty," he said. Qin told China Daily that a one-ounce (30 gram) serving of cooked alpaca meat costs $30 (RMB 188) in their online store. Lower in calories, fat and cholesterol, the high-protein meat has appealed to those seeking alternatives to domesticated meat in Western countries, Qin said.

Qin said that the alpaca meat is supplied by farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

"We ship our products from US to China's Wuhan, which is my hometown, and then distribute them to our online customers all around China," Qin said.

"We want to eventually import a large amount of alpacas to China and help build the alpaca economy from scratch," he said. "We will also try to apply new business models and innovative technologies such as Internet and big data to disrupt the Chinese agriculture that cries for more talents, capital and new ideas. We want to be in that space, and feel lucky we are the first," he said.

"Their strategy looks correct," said Olina Qian, founder of the Silicon Valley Association of Chinese Entrepreneurs. "The creative idea has already caught the public and media's attention. But I believe that selling alpaca meat in China will not be their ultimate goal.

"I hope they can adjust their strategy based on the market reaction in China and explore more possibilities in the industry chain," Qian said.

"In 2014, there are about 200 Chinese entrepreneurs in the US who contacted us to promote their projects; some of them will further build their business in China," said Qian.