As if a nasty Mexico bribery scandal was not enough, Wal-Mart is now embroiled in a fox meat food scandal in China. Over the holidays, I watched Fantastic Mr. Fox, and now just can’t help but imagine Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke exclaiming, “Those feisty foxes!”
According to a Chinese saying, “there’s nothing tastier than dragon meat in heaven and donkey meat on earth.” But it has to be pure donkey meat, straight up.
Messing with heaven on earth, Wal-Mart’s China operation has apparently sold and has now recalled fox-meat tainted ‘five-spice donkey meat’ and created quite a headache for the global retailer.
According to a report from Reuters, the Shandong Food and Drug Administration reported that DNA tests conducted on samples of Wal-Mart sold “five spice donkey” showed that the product included fox meat. Again, those feisty foxes!
While many in the West may get a chuckle from this story as donkey meat is not part of their cultural fare, in China donkey meat is a big deal. Here is a bit of context from the Silk Road Gourmet Laura Kelley:
Donkey meat is also available in Beijing, Shanghai and most big cities in between, but Gansu is the epicenter of donkey cuisine and where the most delicious dishes can be found. I sampled several donkey dishes, but by far the most delicious was the Donkey with Yellow Noodles (lurou huangmian) had in Dunhuang and pictured here.
The meat is tender, sweet and delicious. It tastes nothing like pork or beef. For obvious reasons, it does taste a little like horse, only it is sweeter and more tender, and like horse and many hoofy game meats it is also low in fat and high in protein. In addition to tasting good and being a healthy meat, it is also, very inexpensive, which I am sure adds to its popularity. The strips of charchuterie donkey meat for dipping are a little plain, the sandwiches and burgers are too ‘bready’ and the starch interferes with the great flavor of the meat. . .but for this wandering girl, the donkey with yellow noodles was just right. Another thing I like about the dish, was that it was a very “Asian” way to enjoy the dish.
Yum. After Kelley’s description, I’d try some. Now I understand a bit Chinese frustration about that fox meat getting mixed up in such delicious-sounding cuisine.
According to Reuters, Wal-Mart has said it is investigating the incident and would strengthen food safety compliance. Wal-Mart has also issued an apology over the social media Twitter-like platform, Weibo.
This isn’t the kind of story one reads everyday, but digging into this a bit, Chinese food consumers have been regular targets of rat, fox, and mink rings trying to pawn off these meats as beef and mutton.
A hat tip to the Quartz Daily Brief for sending this delicious morsel my way.
(a version of this article first appeared at The Atlantic.)