40-year old sirloin has Chinese meat market in a stew

China busts an illegal meat trading ring peddling frozen meat from the 1970s

Antique meats

This meat is fresh, but be careful what you buy Image: Jay

In yet another food scandal, Chinese authorities announced they had seized almost half a billion dollars’ worth of illegal frozen meat and broken an elaborate cartel of unscrupulous meat smugglers.

While a 28-day aged steak is a delicacy in many upscale restaurants, discerning gastronomes might think twice about tucking into a side of beef dating back to the 1970s.

The high-stakes bust uncovered more than 800 tons of beef, pork and chicken wings worth around 3bn yuan ($483m) across 14 provinces and regions, leading to the arrest of 20 suspected gang members.

China’s cold-hearted meat mafia typically imported the frozen goods from Hong Kong or Vietnam and smuggled them over the border without declaring the cargo at quarantine.

Most of the trucks did not have freezer capabilities and the meat would often thaw out after many hours' driving through China’s semi-tropical southwesterly regions. According to reports, the meat was often thawed and refrozen several times before it reached the customers.

The meat was sold online through C2C platforms like Taobao, with as much as one third sold at the country’s largest wholesale market in the central Chinese city of Changsha.

Quite how the produce was stored for more than four decades will surely give investigators some serious food for thought.