To avoid having to eat the products of China’s rapidly increasing industrialized and chemical-based food system, government officials and others in positions of privilege get “tegong” (meaning “special supply”) food–food produced naturally, organically (and discreetly) and especially for them.  As this article in the Los Angeles Times describes it:

Organic gardening in China is a hush-hush affair in which the cleanest, safest products are largely channeled to the rich and politically connected.

Many of the nation’s best food companies don’t promote or advertise. They don’t want the public to know that their limited supply is sent to Communist Party officials, dining halls reserved for top athletes, foreign diplomats, and others in the elite classes. The general public, meanwhile, dines on foods that are increasingly tainted or less than healthful — meats laced with steroids, fish from ponds spiked with hormones to increase growth, milk containing dangerous additives such as melamine, which allows watered-down milk to pass protein-content tests.

“The officials don’t really care what the common people eat because they and their family are getting a special supply of food,” said Gao Zhiyong, who worked for a state-run food company and wrote a book on the subject.

Athletes receive tegong pork, the article reveals, because the growth hormone residues in factory-raised pigs were causing false positives in their steroid testing.  Unsurprising to me.  As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, a recent study found 20% of the pork sampled in U.S. grocery stores to be contaminated with the rapactomine, a pork growth hormone.

We’re exporting a lot more food to China these days than we’re importing.  But if you buy seafood, garlic, apple juice or honey in a grocery store, there’s a good chance it came from China. And an increasing amount of the food we export to China is processed there and then returned to us.  We can be sure none of it is going into the tegong system.

We’re fortunate to live in a country where wholesome natural food is not reserved only for those in positions of power and privilege.  But our supply of good food depends upon the continued support of consumers.  The existence of something like the tegong system is evidence that we ought not take for its availability for granted.


17 comments on “Tegong

  1. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, great reminder of how our country works compared to China. The value of human life is still here except for a couple areas of our culture but food good or bad is still a choice here. It’s up to the consumer to find the good food. You mentioned in a reply to one of my posts some time ago that EBT cards were being allowed to buy vegetables at farmer’s markets. That’s a huge victory in my perspective. Thank goodness for farms like yours and dedication like both you and Cherie’s to keep getting the information out about our declining food system. The folks that I rub shoulders with either don’t care and are big box store shoppers or are Whole Food store shoppers. Only one friend does farmer’s market shopping and that’s mostly just for the open air market experience and not the quality of the food purchased. Trying to educate people about food choices is a tough road to walk. Thank you so much for your pursuit of this challenge.

    Have a great Tegong day.


    • Bill says:

      It’s an uphill battle, but I choose to believe we’re going to win. Educating people about what’s at stake, and trying to make sure they understand the consequences of our choices, is the most important part of the fight, in my opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. bobraxton says:

    “seafood, garlic, apple juice or honey in a grocery store, there’s a good chance” (any wonder mental illness is on the rise over recent decade)


    • Bill says:

      Most folks probably don’t realize how dependent China is becoming on food it imports from the U.S. Industrial Ag is loving the new market. Virginia is developing it’s agricultural policy around selling to China. We’re essentially becoming an agricultural colony of industrial China. We do import a lot of food from China, but that is dwarfed by what we’re sending to them. China is making a big mistake, in my opinion, in outsourcing its food production while concentrating its energy on manufacturing trinkets to send to us.


      • Leigh says:

        Heard on NPR awhile back that China is planning on moving the bulk of it’s population out of the rural areas and into the cities. Rather scary thought for any country.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Joanna says:

    May I suggest that there is an appearance of choice in the American market system and to some extent the European one come to that? I would say that power and privilege are still in operation to obtain good, wholesome food, because it is more expensive and/or harder to get and can therefore put it out of reach of the poor. I know those using SNAP can now get extra food at some farmers’ markets, but people still have to get to them. It just might not be available in their neighbourhood though. I was appalled at the cost and quality of fresh food in America – well Colorado to be more precise. I had just come from Denmark that has a 25% tax on food and expected to pay less for my fresh produce in America, I was wrong! Admittedly that was around 7-9 years ago, maybe things have changed a lot since then? I would hope so.

    I would echo Nebraska Dave’s comment though and commend you for your pursuit of trying to produce wholesome food for others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      I hope your impression is wrong. I don’t have much interest in being the supplier to an American tegong system for the rich and privileged. Part of our message is that people on low incomes can afford healthful food. In my experience education, access and convenience have been the primary reasons for poor food choices, not price.


      • Joanna says:

        I agree that in some cases it is lack of education, something I noted was that some foodbanks are addressing this with cookery classes, but price is still a big factor. The difference between the Chinese example, though and the American one I think, goes back to your post on the Taylor company. In that particular example, the Taylor company provided employment but not with reasonable wages that would help the town to flourish. It is these low wages that need to be tackled somehow.

        One idea is that small local farms that employ people at living wage level will keep the dollar circulating around the local system for longer. The problem is that many small farms cannot employ people and pay reasonable wages, but perhaps with cooperation they can employ a person or two between them?

        One other thing I think we have to ask ourselves when we do this kind of thing, is who are we reaching? Are we inadvertently excluding any groups of people that could do with the kinds of food we have to offer? If so can we enable them to join in? CSAs are a classic case of reaching only those with privilege because it demands a lump sum at the beginning. I know some CSAs have some options for those who can’t do that, so that helps. Creativity and conscious questioning I think will mean big changes in our economic systems and that excites me. Sorry if this sounds a bit too much like preach or something – it is just one of the parts my area of research 😀


  4. Seeking Joyful Simplicity says:

    I would agree with Joanna above. The cost of purchaing local organic produce and naturally raised meat without the chemicals (growth hormones and antibiotics) makes it cost-prohibitive for the vast majority. For individuals earning minimum wage, $7 can purchase them a cheap fast food “meal deal” with sandwhich, fries and a drink.

    And many don’t have access to fresh foods in the cities, although the increase in urban farming is improving this situation.

    Our political system is set up to defend the interests of the big industrial food producers, not the consumers. I think perhaps we are more fortunate than those consumers in China, but unless you have a good proportion of your income to spend on local organic foods, and the time to spend obtaining and preparing whole foods, you will be stuck consuming unsafe food products.

    Did you see the Consumer Reports review of fruit juices? Almost all of the brands (organic brands too!) tested positive for lead and arsenic.


    Like you mention – we send our lovely foods overseas (China, India, etc) to be processed. Of course we can live without juice, but this is just one known example. And why do we have such a system that we ship whole foods half-way around the world to be processed and shipped back to us? How sustainable is that? And how many times do I mindlessly purchase something, not really appreciating the REAL cost of the product (economic, human, environmental…)

    Oh boy…this is a deep dark subject, I do believe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      I truly hope (and believe) that it’s not true that only the wealthy can afford nutritious food. Tonight we had a long drive home ahead of us so we had to eat something fast. So we stopped at a Firehouse Subs. It was the first time I’d had fast food in a long time. We both got a “combo”–small sub, drink and chips. The cost was over $17. A person could buy a lot of food from our farm for $17. Certainly more than one meal for two people.

      It’s true that naturally raised meat is more expensive that chemical-laced meat, but I wonder if we shouldn’t just eat less meat. A simple plant-based diet with meat on occasion but not with every meal would not be prohibitively expensive.

      Maybe I’m wrong about this. But if it is true that food raised naturally (as food has been for thousands of years) is too expensive for most people to be able to afford it, then I don’t see much hope for our society.


    • bobraxton says:

      Thanks for the heads-up regarding juices.


  5. EllaDee says:

    When you think of China processed food remember the Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week” song lyrics… “Chickity China the Chinese chicken, You have a drumstick and your brain stops tickin’ “.
    Recently Australia’s “Gourmet Farmer” Matthew Evans launched a “What’s the Catch?” campaign in relation to seafood labelling. He urges us all to ask questions about seafood, and food in general. Some of the Asian farmed seafood practices and environments were eyewatering…


    • Bill says:

      I learned about this tegong system from Paul Greenberg’s excellent book American Catch. He points out that America exports most of our seafood, while importing an amazing 90% of the seafood we eat. Much of what we import is processed and/or farm-raised seafood from China or Vietnam. Meanwhile we’re sending them our wild salmon and other nutritious natural seafood.

      Someday our descendants will look back at our globalized food economy and wonder what the heck we were thinking.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. avwalters says:

    Know your farmer, know your food. Not everything I buy comes from our coop, or the farmers markets (which close in winter.) But I’m careful to source and to do my very best to vote with my dollars for the kind of world I want. Sustainable, clean and fair. Really now, is it too much to ask?


    • Bill says:

      That kind of shopping–an insistence on food that is produced ethically–will make or break our movement. I like to say that every time we make a purchase we’re casting a vote for the kind of world we want to live in.


  7. Leigh says:

    Interesting. I did read somewhere that genetically modified food is not served in the White House, so there’s a double standard here nonetheless.


    • Bill says:

      I hadn’t heard that but if true then good for whoever sources food for the White House. But it’s pretty easy to avoid GMOs as long as you stick to a diet without processed foods. I doubt they’re serving processed foods at the White House so it doesn’t surprise me that they aren’t eating any GMOs.


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