Donkey Con: Wal-Mart selling fox meat as donkey meat in China

The Chinese lectured us over food safety but things are pretty bad in their own country…Wal-Mart has just been busted for selling fox meat as donkey meat.

While other news outlets are writing about the scam, we here at WOBH are providing you with a buyers guide about how to tell the difference between fox meat and donkey meat so that you aren’t ripped off when buying and consuming donkey meat.

Whether in Britain or in China, no one wants to think they’re eating a familiar meat product only to discover they’re really eating an exotic, as one unfortunate Wal-Mart customer in northern China experienced recently, when his “strange” tasting donkey meat turned out to be fox.

But telling meats apart can be tricky! Even experienced beef eaters last year seemingly couldn’t tell cow apart from horse when it was smothered in lasagna; it gets all the trickier when it comes to distinguishing donkey, which far less of the world is familiar with, from fox, which seemingly no one eats on a regular basis.

With that in mind, we’ve put together this guide to telling apart these two unusual edibles.  

A handy guide from the sounds of it. Firstly texture, it seems fox meat is tough.

Is your meat tough and chewy? It’s more likely to be fox. While the 2005 “Field Guide to Meat,” describes donkey meat as “tough” and our own Isaac Stone Fish likened his experiences with donkey meat to “beef jerky made from shoe leather,” it may all come down to how it’s cooked: food bloggers who’ve sampled different styles of donkey in China have found it to be tender and sweet when sliced thinly against the grain, usually chopped or shredded and eaten in a sandwich, or stir fried.  Donkey is also still regularly used in salami in Italy, usually tempered somewhat with the more familiar pork.

Fox, on the other hand, seems universally considered a tough meat — at least among the very small group who’ve actually eaten the canine. I was unable to track down an FP staffer who’d eaten fox meat, and even the “Field Guide,” which claims to cover “virtually every meat, poultry and game cut” hasn’t gotten around to fox. But most of the fox meat recipes I found (that would be a grandtotal of three) I’ve found suggest pre-soaking in vinegar brine to help tenderize it.

Smell is also a dead giveaway.

Does the meat you’re preparing smell horrible? You may be about to cook fox. While the “Field Guide” claims donkey has a “very strong smell” it may not necessarily be bad. Nobel Prize-winning Chinese novelist Mo Yan, who writes lustily of donkey meat in his novel The Republic of Wine, describes it as “aromatic.” By contrast, the smell of raw fox flesh is described as “repulsive” “like skunks” and even “fishy.”  Cooked, the meat has been described as smelling “sheepy or goaty.”

So: is your meat chewy? Does it give off an unpleasant odor? Put that fox sandwich down!

So the next time the Chinese lecture us about food safety…remind them about the donkey con.


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  • conwaycaptain

    Kim Jong Il used to dine on donkey it was his favourite.

  • Adolf Fiinkensein

    Fox meat? Walmart? If you believe that you’ll believe anything.

    The cost of butchering ten kg of fox meat would be ten times the cost of butchering ten Kg of donkey.

    • Orange

      Five Spices Donkey Snacks with meat supplied by Dezhou Fujude Food Co. Ltd who provide the highly processed and chopped up “stuff.” Kinda surprising they only found traces of fox and not other animals.

    • ropteron

      And fox meat would have a hell of a bite to it.

  • conwaycaptain

    Oh what about an Uncle Jang cut, torn out by 120 dogs!!!

  • Col

    The old saying ‘you can’t out Fox the Fox”

  • ex-JAFA

    It can’t be as bad as crocodile (very fishy, unsurprisingly) or emu (more game-y than the game-y-est wildfowl). In my book, the best meat is camel – just like lamb, only without any fat whatsoever.

  • Oskar

    This is not as bad as some of the other food safety “issues” China has had this year. Below are some

    – A Kunming factory where they used water from a pond where people wash their feet and clothes to make rice vermicelli
    – A CCTV investigation found that ice cubes tested in KFC and, McDonald’s in Beijing, contained approximately 13 times more bacteria than water samples taken from their toilets.
    – In Xi’an, police confiscated 20,000 kilos of fake beef made from pork that had been treated with paraffin wax and industrial salts to give it the appearance of beef. Other reported counterfeit products reported were fake honey, fake Red Bull and fake soya milk. Also the selling of rat meat where it was sold as lamb in hotpot restaurants.
    – .In Zhejiang authorities busted a ring that was planting poisonous wax balls inside poultry to lure people’s pets. After kidnapping the dogs, they would butcher them and sell the poisoned meat to restaurants.

    – In Shanghai an investigation was carried out as to why some 16,000 dead pigs were hauled out of the river that flows through that city. Turned out illegal pig dealers in neighboring Zhejiang Province had been selling diseased meat and when authorities uncovered this operation they dumped the carcasses into the river. Shanghai authorities maintained water from this river remained fit to drink.

    Fox for donkey isn’t too bad compared to these and many other food safety stories from China. The authorities there do like to focus their attention on international companies if only to show their domestic companies aren’t too bad.

  • Cowgirl

    So don’t eat meat when you go to China….got it.

    Edit: after reading some of the other posts, I don’t think I’d eat full stop.

    • jonno1

      It’s actually quite easy CG. Two criteria: only eat stuff served hot, and see what locals are eating and say “I’ll have that”. On one occasion I was obliged to eat shellfish (the guest is expected to taste the cuisine first) but I survived the experience. Then the band played “Waltzing Matilda” in my honour. Oh well, close enough.

      One more thing: only drink bottled water or coke etc, but check the top first for a broken seal.

      • 4077th

        I take a bottle of Jack each time I go and never worry about eating or drinking. 3 or 4 stiff JD’s at the end of each evening ensure the quick death of any nasties and has not failed me yet. I have also travelled to Laos recently and while I was perpetually hungry when I did eat I followed it with JD and no problems at all unlike my first visit in 2000 when I spent 3 days on the bog.

    • CheesyEarWax

      Try taking a vegetarian to Yum Cha, its a bloody nightmare.

      • Cowgirl

        I’m one of those nightmares – I was vegetarian for years and now eat fish/chicken/pork but no beef or lamb, and certainly no donkey or fox. Ew.

        • hookerphil

          Moose and reindeer may be on the menu in Canada for you

          • Cowgirl

            In Alberta they already think you’re queer if you don’t eat beef :P

          • hookerphil

            Oh dear, you may be meeting a whole new “range” of people, will follow your move with interest.

          • Cowgirl

            Canadians are super polite and nice generally but cowboy country is soooo not where I saw myself :) It’s going to be really interesting!

  • Timboh

    I can only say….. thank you all for keeping the posts going over the break, and to this post…. I fucking laughed out loud. WalMart in China? FFS! Primo news/entertainment/political reality/comedy. The Chinese are doing what all rising (again) empires do. A bit of bullying to soften up the donkey or ass or anything they want to devour.. Bully for lower prices (Fonterra) , bully for territory and resource (any Islands close to the mainland. How close is what they decide). In terms of the ‘west’ and China, which is the fox?

    Finally Ain’t the internet great. This blog is proof.

    P.S. The birthday payment sounds fair. When I read it I thought “we’ll I’ll be fucked!, I’ve been reading daily for a few years so only right to pay.

  • caochladh

    So, does anyone really know what was in that unbranded steak pie they bought at the dairy?

  • 4077th

    What the Fox say?

  • CheesyEarWax

    Food safety, then road safety. They’ll be lecturing us about democracy next.