In order to be successful, a farmer must possess many skills as well as a deep knowledge of the land, his stock, and the market he is operating within. In a world that is rapidly turning digital, our familiarity with the land is being lost at an equally alarming rate. Our need for farmers is more desperate than ever, especially when one takes a moment to consider what they provide.
As is the case with most blue collar jobs, farming is incredibly hard work— anyone who has tried their hand at the backbreaking job could attest to that. So when a smalltown pig farmer living in rural China was asked about his life, he would say, as expected, that it was pretty unassuming. At least it was until he made this discovery.
China is a dominant force in the world economy. Yet as such, much of its workforce still operates from rural villages, which still experience their own success, too. One such citizen was none other than farmer Bo Chunlou.
The 51-year-old farmer, who lived in Ju County in China’s Shandong Province, certainly led a minimalistic life. Out in the countryside, Chunlou spent much of his time on the farm doing backbreaking work.
As was the case with most rural farmers, Chunlou wasn’t paid especially well for his labor. But one day, while working on his farm, he discovered something that would change the course of his life forever, bringing him tremendous good fortune.
It just so happened that Chunlou’s commitment led him to an incredibly rare find. One day, while butchering a 550-pound sow for meat, he came across something peculiar in her gall bladder. It appeared to be some sort of furball, but Chunlou knew that couldn’t be right…
The object was called a bezoar. Comprised of a mixture of digested and undigested items—like hair and foliage—these can be made by both humans and animals alike. After showing his findings to other villagers, Chunlou was told something he couldn’t believe.
He was informed that Chinese medical practitioners would pay lots of money to acquire a bezoar. Stunned by this news—but eager to see how much it was worth—Chunlou and his son, Bo Mingxue, went to have it appraised in Shanghai.
As was expected, the bezoar was worth a lot more than Chunlou had originally anticipated. In fact, the appraiser informed him and his son that it was worth a whopping $605,000! He was, unsurprisingly, elated.
With traditional Chinese medicine as popular as ever, the bezoar was a highly coveted item. Chunlou and his son presumed that it would eventually wind up for sale in one of the many herbal pharmacies in the country.
Traditional Chinese medicine is a booming industry; it’s responsible for up to 33 percent of the country’s pharmaceutical industry. Some experts have suggested the industry is valued at upwards of $120 billion!
Wang Guoqiang, deputy chief of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, attributes this popularity to its support by the Chinese government. Otherwise, he assumed, many people would be skeptical of its capabilities.
“I’ve been to some countries and many state leaders mentioned they wished to import TCM [traditional Chinese medicine] to their own country,” Guoqiang explained. “Their awareness and recognition of TCM is continuously rising.”
Yet the practice of this type of medicine is still controversial. That’s likely because items like animal testicles and crocodile jaws are commonly used ingredients—as are questionable human by-products like dandruff, feces, and ear wax.
Perhaps most controversial of all is that traditional Chinese medicine still uses parts from endangered animals, like tigers, because of high demand. The market for these products is valued upwards of $20 billion every single year.
Bezoars are still popular items because they’re considered to have anti-poison properties. All you’d have to do is drop the bezoar stone into something poisonous, and the poison was rumored to lose its effect immediately. It truly sounded like something from a Harry Potter film!
Bezoars were so precious that they were once discovered among treasure on a sunken ship called the Nuestra Señora de Atocha. More modern research has discovered that bezoars are somewhat worthy of their reputation as an item of value: they’re capable of removing toxins from an arsenic liquid…
In traditional Chinese medicine, bezoars are still used rid one’s body of “evil” things, and they are most often harvested directly from oxen and cows. Furthermore, they can be used to remedy various ailments, such as a sore throat.
To use a bezoar stone, medical practitioners must first turn it into a fine powder, which is said to have a rather bittersweet flavor. And while bezoar powder carries various vitamins and minerals, its side effects include diarrhea and poisoning.
While traditional Chinese medicine continues to be a booming industry, many people will still deny there’s actually proof that any of the remedies—including bezoar stones—work. Some western medicine advocates have even suggested TCM could have damaging effects!
Nonetheless, Bo Chunlou’s find was still incredibly valuable. At the rate he’ll make money from his bezoar, he could give up pig farming in a flash. Then again, why would he if he could possibly find more?
Aside from their medicine, China is also one of the biggest nations in food export. While you might think your imported food is thoroughly vetted, that’s not the case. Not everything is unsafe, but there are some Chinese foods you may want to beware of…
1. Cod: Believe it or not, this common fish is among the absolute worst foods to digest from China. Thousands are cramped in small areas teeming with sewage and garbage, making them highly toxic.
2. Eggs: If you get eggs that were imported from China, you might want to think twice before scrambling them up. Factories there use calcium carbonate and paraffin in their eggs, which can cause serious food poisoning.
3. Lamb: In 2013, police arrested 900 people in China because they were pawning off rat meat as lamb, and that’s disgusting. Officers seized about 20,000 pounds of spoiled rat meat, as well!
4. Wine: If you consider yourself a wine connoisseur, you’ll probably want to avoid wine that was “Made in China”. Sure, you’ll find your standard grapes, but you’ll also consume sugar, dyes, and artificial flavors. Cheers!
5. Tea: Even though China is the biggest purveyor of tea throughout the world, close to 29 toxic chemicals have been found in various brands. Luckily, none of them were exported to other countries, but still…
6. Industrial salt: For years, industrial salt has been sold throughout China as table salt. However, this type of sodium is not meant for human consumption; it can cause hypothyroid problems and reproductive system disorders.
7. Watermelon: Many of the watermelons exported from China are covered in a highly harmful pesticide that causes them to grow at rapid rates. Buy your produce locally to avoid getting sick.
8. Tilapia: Much like the factory-farmed cod, these fish are placed into small overcrowded areas where the water is full of toxic chemicals. The fish breathe in the chemicals, and then end up on your dinner plate.
9. Rice noodles: The Chinese sure love their noodles, but you should probably try to avoid imported rice noodles. Some factories use sulfur dioxide to make their noodles appear fresh. This chemical has been linked to cancer.
10. Pork: Some people prefer beef over pork, but in China, beef is about twice as expensive. So what does a company do to counter the problem? They pump borax-filled additives into their pork to make it look like beef!
11. Garlic: Chinese garlic farms are known to be coated in chemical products before the garlic is picked and shipped to stores. If you ever eat Canadian garlic and then Chinese garlic, you can instantly taste the difference.
12. Mushrooms: When food inspectors examine mushrooms coming in from China, they often find tainted batches. Some companies will even label their product “organic” just to increase sales.
13. Plastic rice: Nearly every meal in China is eaten with rice, so you’d think they would ensure it was safe, right? Nope. It turns out many factories add a cancer-causing synthetic resin to their rice. Gross!
14. Milk: Melanin is a chemical that causes serious damage to kidneys, and it’s been found in imported milk. The problem is so bad that six children have died over recent years and 300,000 have gotten very ill.
15. Apple juice: Amazingly, 50 percent of the apple juice sold in the United States comes out of China. This is scary since the number of pesticides sprayed on the fruit prior to processing is at an all time high. Stick to water, instead!
16. Cabbage: During the super high temperatures of the summer months, Chinese farmers will spray a highly toxic formalin solution onto cabbage to keep them looking fresh. Best not to dabble.
17. Peas: Wasn’t it John Lennon who said, “Give peas a chance”? Well, you don’t want to give canned peas from China a chance. In 2005, food inspectors found artificially colored fake peas in thousands of cans.
18. Black pepper: You might have heard of the “famous” Chinese black pepper, but if you ever get a chance to try it, you might want to pass. Some people are simply selling hardened mud pellets!
19. Oil: A massive food company in China made the disgusting decision to recycle used olive oil from thousands of restaurants, filter it, and then resell it. Oil vey!
20. Chicken: Avian influenza and other food-borne illnesses are prevalent in China, so when it comes to imported chicken, you might want to walk in the other direction. It’s never the right time to get salmonella.