John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
A slaughterhouse injects meat with water from dirty ponds.
There once was a time – oh, about a week ago – when Walmart selling fox meat deceptively labeled as donkey meat constituted a good Chinese food scandal. This most recent story from the southern city of Guangzhou, though, blows that nasty revelation right out of the (bacteria-infested) water.
Perhaps imitating certain American chicken processors, a small group of workers in an unlicensed slaughterhouse allegedly decided to increase the water weight (and thus the price) of their meat. So they started injecting the carcasses of freshly killed sheep with water. The problem was where they were getting the H2O – not from the tap, but from fetid outdoor ponds, reports Shanghai Daily.
When the authorities raided the abattoir in late December, they found pumps and rubber tubes that the workers were ostensibly using to jam fluids into their weird meat. The Daily breaks down how that was accomplished:
Pond water was injected into the carcasses before the blood clotted, and the meat then sold to meat markets, food stalls, canteens and restaurants in Guangzhou city, Foshan city and elsewhere in the province.
The water came from ponds and was said to contain massive quantities of harmful bacteria.
Up to 6 kilograms of water was injected into each sheep.
Alarmingly, the news outlet indicates this was not the country's first illicit water-injection operation, writing that such altered meat "poses great danger to health and the water used in most cases is polluted." What should wary shoppers be on the lookout for? "Signs include an abnormal amount of fluid," says the Daily, "while if the surface of the meat is pressed, it usually takes water-injected cut longer to return to its original shape."
Please take a moment to retroactively file pond steak into 2013's list of Chinese mystery products next to poison sanitary napkins, noodles made with foot-bath water, 2 million fake condoms, and "rabbit meat" that turned out to be made from domestic cats.