Officials Say China's Love of Smoked Meat Is Contributing to Its Dangerous Smog

Never mind the coal plants spewing filth—it is the tradition to smoke meat in Sichuan province during February’s Spring Festival that officials are currently targeting.
January 11, 2016, 10:00pm
Foto von Su-Lin via Flickr

As concerns about the environment and climate ring ever-louder alarms in the media, images of smog-filled urban centers in China have become distressingly familiar. Some look like a dystopian future dreamed up by science fiction—massive skyscrapers are barely visible behind thick haze, the sun feebly lights a tiny portion of a grey and brown sky, and streams of pedestrians wearing surgical masks emerge from what looks like impenetrable fog, inhabitants of a world gone to rot.

Perhaps taking a cue from the Italian town that is doing the unthinkable and fighting pollution by banning most wood-fired pizza ovens, one Chinese city is choosing to fight the smog by setting up over 100 machines that allow residents to smoke meat indoors without polluting the air. According to China Daily, officials in the city of Dazhou in China's southwestern Sichuan province hope the machines will clean up the air a bit.

READ: Austin Loves Its Barbecue Too Much to Regulate the Smoke

Never mind the old-tech coal plants barking forth filth day and night—it is a tradition to smoke meat in Sichuan province during February's Spring Festival, and that, officials say, contributes to local pollution.

And a lot of the region's people smoke meat. For example, in neighboring Chengdu, with a population of more than 10 million, it can be hard to even find the sawdust and cypress twigs needed for meat-smoking.

"Almost 99 percent of local families would smoke meat before the Spring Festival," Yu Canghai, a Dazhou official, told China Daily. "People who smoke meat can be found from the foot to the top of Fenghuang Mountain."

The air is even more polluted in Dazhou during the run-up to the festival, when residents are busily smoking meat. But some aren't convinced by claims that smoked bacon is the major cause of smog in Dazhou, a stance that local officials took early last year.

READ: Pizza Ovens Are Under Fire in This Polluted Italian Town

Researchers from an environmental protection group performed some experiments to see how smoking meat affected air quality in and around Dazhou. They measured tiny airborne particles known as PM2.5, which are less than 2.5 big but can be harmful to the lungs and health in general. They found, however, that smoking bacon produced virtually zero PM2.5.

The researchers also found that smoking meat didn't affect the quality of air that was just 50 meters away. However, large amounts of PM2.5 can cause the air to appear hazy.

But officials maintain smoked meat is part of the problem.

It is unclear if residents of Dazhou will be able to use the indoor smokers for free, but residents will be permitted to share them. A hundred of the things might not be enough for everyone, but for those who crave the smell of meat smoking on a cold winter day, the air will still be smoke-kissed with the aroma of roasting pork.