by Raju Peddada
[Author's note: The Chinese profiteers are not only adept at faking Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermes, and Rolex products, but as we learn now, they are brilliant at passing rat, mink, and fox meat as mutton. This carnivorous gluttony has invented an industry, "Meat Piracy," to the profiteer's pecuniary delight. Once again, what you crave creates the industry -- meat is the biggest, and the sole catalyst for our physical, as well as environmental and financial corruption.]
(Swans - May 20, 2013) In 1996, I and my incredulous 9-year-old daughter, Elisabeth, raised in a carnivorous setting, set out to explore the wilderness around Fritsie Park, in Neenah, Wisconsin, where we ended up discovering several edible plants. To prove my point, we clipped bunches of wild Amaranth, two types of Dutch clover, pigweed, wild mustard and onion, and drove back to Chicago with these greens in a bag. Upon our arrival, about three hours later, around dinnertime, I requested my mother, the maestro of ancient and esoteric vegetarian recipes, to make those leafy curries (a terribly limiting and generic name for vegetarian recipes by the English). She crafted amaranth and Dutch clover over sautéed potatoes with pepper, cumin, and ginger, and used wild mustard and onion in soupy tomato lentils. Long story short -- my daughter was not only enchanted by the aroma, but by the taste and texture as well, and proceeded to finish both recipes within 24 hours. In about ten square feet of Wisconsin wilderness, we found no less than eight edible species of plants, with varied nutritional values.
Is there any way you can fake a plant? For the vegetarians, especially south Indians, if a plant is edible, it can be a great prepared recipe, period. You cannot fake or substitute amaranth leaves and its fibrous stalk with another. In other words, you cannot cheat by substituting, but you can genetically-engineer plants to produce more, like they did with corn, rice, and wheat -- or make them bug resistant. But with meat, when the skin is taken off, all other bets are off. This is just only one of the many big disadvantages for carnivores, unless you are the Inuit from the Arctic Circle. The Europeans, the Chinese, and the Americans are only realizing now what it is to be a carnivore in the hands of unscrupulous profiteers. Do I have any sympathy for these folks? Absolutely not! But I have become apathetic over how collectively dumb people can be in their food habits. Yesterday, I couldn't help but breakout in guffaws after reading this article by Jamil Anderlini from Beijing that appeared in the weekend edition of The Financial Times (Saturday, May 4, 2013). Here are excerpts of the article:
Chinese Police Smell A Rat After 'Mutton' Sickness
European consumers concerned about horse meat in their sausages should spare a thought for their Chinese counterparts who now have to worry about swallowing rat meat dressed up as mutton. Chinese police have busted a criminal ring selling meat from rats, foxes and mink by passing it off as mutton, the public security ministry said.
In a raid involving more than 200 officers, police is Shanghai and Jiangsu province arrested 63 people from a gang that allegedly sold more than $1.6 million worth of fake mutton over a three year period. The latest food scandal to hit China comes as citizens grapple with a looming bird flu epidemic and a steady stream of food and safety scandals that the Chinese authorities seem unable to curtail.
Police have also confiscated more than 20,000 tons of fake or adulterated meat products during the nationwide campaign. The rat meat ring is Jiangsu and Shanghai used gelatin, food coloring and industrial chemicals to make rat, fox and mink meat look and taste more like mutton, police said. The list of food products the Chinese have to avoid seems to be growing by the week.
In March, more than 16,000 rotten pig carcases were found floating down the main river that flows through the commercial metropolis of Shanghai.
"After pigs were found in the Huangpu river we don't dare eat pork, because of the bird flu we don't dare to eat chickens or ducks and now we can't eat beef or mutton [because it might be rat meat]," wrote one person on the Twitter-like Weibo service. "The vegetarian diet plan will definitely be a massive hit across all of China."
I never, for a second, thought that my meat articles, published by Swans in the last two months, were some solecistic and incongruous diatribes, or an overreaction. I had been watching this devolution for a while, in amusement. In fact, my observations were tempered and rooted in common sense and logic, with a business rationale, which as a veteran businessman are unavoidable. Demand that is not fulfilled by adequate supply becomes the fecund ground for "filler products," fake, pirated, adulterated products end up fulfilling that gap in supply. All of it only for quick profits. Is it any wonder that we see pirated goods, in entertainment and software, clothes, toys, pharmaceuticals, and especially luxury-branded products, where the supplies are kept deliberately low to exercise the cache of exclusiveness and rarity, leading to price premiums? But these products are not eaten, while meat is.
Every animal has its own internal bacterial/microbial ecology, like the ones in our own bodies, that cannot be extirpated. When you eat something unknown or adulterated, you have no idea what "alien" microbial ecology you have ingested, and how it would affect you. Slaughtering, processing, freezing and thawing, preparing, and eating meat is a race against time, essentially against rot/decomposition. We always tend to learn the hard way... after plagues, cholera, AIDS, and now this. Meat piracy made big news in the developed nations; I wonder if such scandals, where meat is sold without regulation, unprotected by freezing and packaging or quality control, are ever allowed to surface in places like Uganda, Egypt, Bangladesh, or Somalia. In the Medinas of Morocco and India, I saw slabs of meat at the butchers in those 88 degrees, covered with flies, with an open gutter full with blood, urine, and waste a few feet away. Salmonella and E. coli are meat bacteria that get transferred to vegetarian salads at the food processing plants, like the ones run by Sysco Foods. For that matter, why the meat in leafy salads? Does the meat make the salad whole? How many recalls would it take?
Meat piracy is not only dangerous, but in my opinion a serious crime that puts consumers at high risk. To avoid becoming a victim to such scams, wouldn't it be sane to abstain from meat altogether? Meat piracy in the U.S. is just a matter of when, and not if. The meat industry has been deregulated -- it was telegraphed to us recently, with that "furlough" of the meat inspectors, as the USDA decomposes to an impotent bureaucracy! You think large, publicly held meat processors will appreciate your carnivorous gluttony? They will most likely cut corners and costs to make their quarterly profits Cockadoodle-Moo-Oink-&-Baaa for their shareholders. That is, till there is an epidemic, and an unspecified and unidentified strain of bacteria, which kills you, your loved one, or both of you. Then there will be that predictable and obligatory public paroxysm over the meat cheats -- and, a hasty Senate bill would be hacked together by our pandering politicians, to hoodwink you into voting for them again. Isn't every public crisis an opportunity for the politicians across both the aisles? You know what will happen then? Your meat industry (American Association of Meat Processors), the packaged food processors, and the religious lobbies that you had made powerful with your carnivorous gluttony will browbeat the senators and the congressman into submission, exactly like what the National Rifle Association did over the gun-control bill, leaving you to speak at the funeral of loved ones, to continue that fight. Wake up, get off that meat cot, and stop your rot!
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About the Author
Raju Peddada is an industrial designer running an eponymous brand, purveyor of ultra luxury furnishings of his own design (see peddada.com). He is also a freelance correspondent/writer for several publications, specializing in commentary, essay, and opinions on architecture, design, photography, books, fashion, society, and culture. Peddada was born in Tallapudi, a small southern town in south India. He's lived in New Delhi and Bombay before migrating to the West Indies and eventually settling in Chicago, Illinois, where he worked in corporate America until he chose to set up his own designing firm. He lives with his family in Des Plaines. (back)