Nutrition

Could medicinal meats be the next health food craze?

REUTERS/Yves Herman

 (REUTERS/Yves Herman)

Healthy eaters will soon have a new favorite meat, courtesy of China’s farmers, but it’s nothing like grass-fed beef or free-range poultry. Instead, the farmers are raising cows, pigs, and ducks on a steady diet of ancient Chinese medicine.

The results are both delicious and healthy: The tender meats can simultaneously can protect against colds, arthritis, and other illnesses.

For years, bitter blends of plants and herbs have been prescribed to fight diseases in humans. Chinese farmers have now taken these old cures and adapted them for livestock, targeting a growing market for traditional medicine and healthy food in China’s increasingly health-conscious middle class.

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One farmer, Lin Wenluo, began mixing medicinal herbs into his livestock’s feed several years ago. As a result, his pigs sell for about $200 more than a regular pig. In fact, some customers go so far as to eat his meats in place of taking medicine.

China’s health-food market reached $1 trillion last year and is expected to grow 20 percent annually. Farmers hope that medicinal meats will fuel this projected growth and will be launched into the mainstream market.

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