China’s lamenting the price of pork through Douyin videos

Can only afford a little.
Can only afford a little.
Image: Screengrabs/Douyin
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The world’s largest pork consumer can’t afford to eat pork.

That’s the sentiment widely being shared on Douyin, known as TikTok overseas, one of China’s most popular short video platforms. A search for the key phrase “pork price has soared” showed people have been uploading numerous videos this month making fun of the pain of buying pork in recent days.

An outbreak of African swine fever last year has led to massive culls of pigs in the country in recent months, sending pork prices up 47% from a year earlier in August. The disease is fatal to the animals, but doesn’t affect humans.

The videos fell into a number of varieties—from sticker shock at the grocery to how to impress with a nice piece of pork.

How to cook with (almost) no pork

Cooking a whole dish with a minuscule piece of pork is a common theme among the videos on Douyin.

“Pork prices have soared, I can’t afford to eat pork. It’s like going back to the days before the liberation” read the caption with one of the videos. The user, who was pan-frying a tiny piece of pork, was referring to the1930s, a time of high inflation, when the Communists were fighting a civil war with the Kuomintang before establishing the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

In another video, a customer only buys a piece the size of his finger for 5 yuan (70 cents). “The price of pork has gone up so much that I seriously cannot afford eating it.” (It’s a slight exaggeration, pork prices are near 30 yuan a kilo at the moment.)

Another user, desperate to get a bit of pork flavor, rubs onions and carrots forcefully over the surface of a porkchop, instead of cooking it, to make it last as long as possible.

Pork as the new status symbol for men

In these videos, pork chops are as good as an apartment or any other item that conveys male value.

A man who claimed to be a butcher wrapped two ribs around his waist and proclaimed that he finally had enough to pay the sky-high dowry necessary to get married. China has more men than women because of the one-child policy, and in rural Chinese cities, the dowry you have to shower on your bride could go up to 200,000 yuan ($28,000). In a similar video, a man dangling a porkchop from a string walked confidently and said he finally could “stand up straight” in front of his mother-in-law.

Male users on Douyin flaunted pieces of pork—a new status symbol.
Male users on Douyin flaunted pieces of pork—a new status symbol.
Image: Screengrabs/Douyin

Envying the pig farmer

In one video, a user said after three months of pig-rearing, one would be able to afford to swap from a BMW to a Maserati. In another, a family that had originally looked down upon a pig farmer’s daughter, has changed its mind and urges the family’s son to pursue the girl when they realize just how many pigs her family has.

In reality, however, many farms are struggling after having to cull their animals.

Pork as the new gift

Move over watches, or fancy alcohol. In two videos, users showed themselves giving pork on celebratory occasions instead. In one video, the porkchop was wrapped in a heart-shaped gift box right next to a birthday cake. In another, the user wrote, “Now that the pork price has surged, there’s no other better time to send a porkchop as a gift.”

Best gift.
Best gift ever.
Image: Screengrab/Douyin