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Some Chinese Donkey Meat Actually Contains Fox

Some customers in China now know both what the fox says, and what it tastes like

smithsonian.com

Last year, Ikea's meatballs were outed for containing horse meat. In fact, a whole mess of beef products sold across Europe were found to contain horse meat. But passing off one sort of meat as another isn't as uncommon as one might hope—or confined to any one continent. In China, there's currently a scandal over "Five Spice" donkey meat. But in this case, the problem isn't the equine protein. It's another mystery meat: fox.

Donkey meat is a popular snack in some regions in China—although it's not a huge part of the country's meat consumption. (In 2011, China reported about 2.4 million slaughtered donkeys; for comparison, the country has about 90 million cattle.) But, according to a recent test, the donkey meat sold at Wal-Marts in China contained fox DNA. Adam Jourdan at Reuters reports:

Wal-Mart will reimburse customers who bought the tainted "Five Spice" donkey meat and is helping local food and industry agencies in eastern Shandong province investigate its Chinese supplier, it said late on Wednesday in official posts on China's Twitter-like Weibo. The Shandong Food and Drug Administration earlier said the product contained fox meat.

One might think that fox meat would be more expensive than donkey, making the replacement kind of odd. But it turns out that fox meat has a really distinct, gamey taste, so it only sells for a dollar a kilogram. And Chinese businesses even sell a de-scenting agent to mask the smell and taste of the fox, according to one report.

So now, some customers in China know not only what the fox says, but what it tastes like.

More from Smithsonian.com:

The Little Foxes
Fighting For Foxes

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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