The dry statistics don't do it justice.

You have to get some mud on your boots to experience the pace of change in Chinese agriculture, and to understand the emerging opportunities for long-term partnerships with Chinese producers — and consumers — who are eager to grow as fast as they can manage.

I recently spent a week, presenting at a conference and meeting with customers and traders.

We made time to tour Chinese swine farms to get a perspective on the modernization and state of the local swine industry.

We drove for about an hour and a half and seemingly never left a populated/urban area. As we meandered our way through a Chinese concrete mine that literally lays the foundation for neighboring Kunming, we found ourselves stopping at the top of a hill. What greeted us was a red iron curtain that is way more literal than figurative. 

The door swung open and out stepped a cheerful Chinese lady dressed in what looked more like a butcher's robe than a hog farmer's coveralls. Her smiling face was a warm welcome as watering trucks constantly drove by in their fruitless effort to control the choking dust from the adjacent mine.

The team then met her husband, Mr. Chen, who ushered us to a footbath that stood guard outside of the entrance to their hog house.

The exterior of the hog house itself looked much like something I remember from my childhood back in Iowa — old and not fancy. It's the kind of building my grandfather had (okay, still has).

However, once you step inside, it feels much different. The setup was something that reminded me of a show pig barn the day of a sale. Shiny new gates formed pens on one side and gestation crates on the other.

"We just got everything you see here. We used to be broiler producers," said Mr. Chen. "When the margins tuned sour, we sold our flock and bought our foundation swine herd."

The symbolism was remarkable to me. What this represented was a price conscious Chinese citizen that wished to make more money by producing a higher level of protein.