As the price of pork, the most popular meat in China, continues to skyrocket in the wake of a livestock epidemic, citizens of the communist nation are turning to dog meat as a substitute.
Pork prices have shot up 69 percent thanks to the market-killing effects of African swine fever, putting the meat out of reach for many Chinese.
As the South China Morning Post reports, consumers with a tight budget are choosing cheaper alternatives to pork.
Restaurants are now suggesting patrons choose dog meat, also referred to as “fragrant meat” in China and “sweet meat” in nearby North Korea, to keep the price of dishes down. Dog, along with rabbit, is also becoming more common in markets as having pork makes shoppers a target of hungry thieves, according to the SCMP.
In one market, the only cut of hog cheaper than rabbit is a leg bone without a single scrap of meat attached.
Dogs and rabbits, which both reproduce in great numbers and are relatively hardy, have become some of the cheapest meats available to residents of China.
Although dog and other meat has to conform to a web of restrictive but difficult-to-enforce laws to protect citizens’ health, canine meat can still be found with relative ease as open-air markets continue to sell it.
The return to dog meat is only one of the effects that the illness, also known as pig ebola, has plagued China with. There is no known cure for the infectious disease, so entire stocks of pigs are culled to prevent it from spreading.
In some rural regions rocked by the illness, pork is hard to find even if residents have the money.
Many farmers have had to cull their pig herds, leaving local pig merchants with little or nothing to sell. As the disease spreads, vendors are unlikely to send their stock to poor rural regions.
Although it’s an unfortunate situation for the Chinese, the illness comes in the middle of a trade war between their country and the United States.
According to SCMP, the hog population in the country has plummeted 41% in the last year, and there’s no indication of when it will stop falling. China’s secrecy surrounding the extent of the virus may indicate that things are worse than they seem.
As the country grows increasingly aggressive with areas that it considers wayward provinces like Taiwan and Hong Kong, a food crisis in the mainland is the last thing the communist regime needs.
If China’s swine herds completely collapse, there’s no telling what the country’s 1.3 billion residents will do. The Chinese people still have famine in their collective memory, as the nation suffered a deadly period of starvation in the early 1960s.
For the communist leadership hellbent on maintaining total control, this level of lost confidence could be disastrous.
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