Food for Thought: Buying Meat in China

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by someone who might be moving to Haiyang and, more specifically, to our lovely expert/expat village. The person had a lot of questions — all good ones and ones I wish I had thought of before making the move myself. Not that I regret moving to middle-of-nowhere China, but maybe if I had thought to ask some of the same questions, I wouldn’t have been so shocked by the realities of life here.

Take, for example, my weekly trip to the grocery store. I’ve never been a fan of grocery shopping no matter where I live, but I can without-a-doubt state that I prefer the sanitized stores of Měiguó over the anything goes mentality of Zhōngguó. The main reason is because, for the most part, I’m a vegetarian. I have many reasons as to why that is, one of which being that the sight of meat, whether raw or cooked, grosses me out. Back home, pushing my cart through the meat aisle was pretty painless. All the different types and cuts of meat were displayed safely behind glass in refrigerated bins. They were packaged in a way that wouldn’t challenge meat-lovers to even make the mental connection between the fury (if not cute) animal on the farm to that big hunk of meat taking up a sizable portion of a plate. I think it’s a different story when you see the (almost) whole carcass of an animal on display, fresh blood still dripping from its lifeless body.

Maybe I’m just too squeamish, as my mother would say. But to her I would say: be proud because I’ve come a long way, as these photos prove. I am now used to the sight of meat, even when it’s out in open, non-refrigerated bins for everyone to look and poke at.*

After all this time in China, I’m used to seeing many varieties of meat. Pig heads are a dime a dozen in any grocery store or outdoor market here.

IMAG0657So are pig feet, which I know you can buy back home, but they aren’t something you see everyday in the grocery store and you would never see this many for sale at once.

Seeing all this meat hasn’t convinced me to eat it. For some reason, appetizing isn’t the word that comes to mind when I’m walking by these bins. I hear many countries and cultures whip up some mean dishes involving animal hooves and claws (or so says The Splendid Table’s Lynne Rossetto Kasper), but I’ll just take her word for it.

Some of the expats have no problem buying meat at the local grocery stores. Others do, and prefer to shop for their meat in the more Western-like grocery stores in Qingdao or Yantai. I’m still not sure I would trust buying any type of meat in China. Even Wal-Mart came under fire earlier this year for unknowingly selling fox meat to its customers right here in Shandong Province. And I don’t know about you, but if I thought I was buying donkey meat and it turned out to be fox meat, I’d be ticked.

*Additionally, this article states that 80% of the meat in China is transported to grocery stores in unrefrigerated trucks. This makes me wonder how long the average piece of meat sits out, unrefrigerated before it is purchased, let alone cooked, by consumers?

This entry was published on March 19, 2014 at 1:25 pm. It’s filed under Haiyang, Markets and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

12 thoughts on “Food for Thought: Buying Meat in China

  1. I think I might become vegetarian if faced with those options in the market!

  2. Vijaya on said:

    Yes to us vegetarians it’s really gross and I have heard a lot of the meat eaters say they would become vegetarians after being faced with these conditions ,but really not one of them can live without their daily dose of MEAT. I guess when one is a CARNIVORE from birth it’s HARD for the average person to become a HERBIVORE. It takes a little time and planning for one to have a healthy balanced meal in China as a vegetarian, which can be done easily as one has nothing but time on their hands!!! 🙂

  3. I’ve never really been disgusted by seeing the meat hanging like that in markets, I always found fascinating compared to the meat that is nicely packaged and displayed in ‘meiguo’ markets. My only issue is the smell.

    I’d say at least by seeing the almost whole animal, you know you’re not buying the wrong type of meat.

  4. mr. woshoudebuhao on said:

    “Chinese meat. It’s what’s NOT for dinner.”


  5. It is really disguising in Chinese meet market for people who have never seen a place like that. But it is really hard to change the current situation because Chinese market is lack of regulations. And people buy that kind of meet all the time. It is just the lifestyles even though it is very sick.

  6. i struggled as a vegetarian in china and it would have been even more difficult had i not been with my mandarin-speaking brother. i though china was bad, but then i went to vietnam… 🙂

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