Shanghai: Meat, Butchers, and Fitness in China

On my last day in Shanghai I did what any normal tourist would do….

I went grocery shopping.


Well first I had an job interview with a gym for a personal trainer position which went extremely well and then I went grocery shopping. Jenny was kind enough to take me to my interview and help translate. Did I get the job? Yes! However I am a bit apprehensive about taking the job. Starting a new career in a foreign country working for a foreign company without speaking the language is daunting to say the least. But I want to experience working at a gym before becoming an independent trainer. I know I have a lot to learn. We shall see what I decide.

After the interview, Jenny had to get groceries so I decide to join her to kill time and get some shopping instruction. Jenny knows how to shop. She also knows Chinese cuisine.

Of course we go to Carrefour. In case you missed it, I discuss Carrefour as Walmart on steriods in a previous post. I quickly find the aisle of bagged nuts and dried fruit. Obviously my favorite aisle. I buy some sesame glazed walnuts for a snack.

Next up are the massive containers of dried fruit, nuts, mushrooms, and other goods. You bag the amount you want then wait in a huge line to have it weighed and priced. The same goes for the produce section. You must do this before checking out while bumping elbows with fellow shoppers all around.

Finally, we reach the cured meat section. After jokingly posing with a package of strange looking meat chops, Jenny laughs and says “Hey! Those are good!” Hahaha. I think I’ll pass. Read my discussion here on why packaged food is considered “healthy” in China. It is an interesting perception that food sealed in packaging is clean and safe from external pollutants.

This makes some sense in a warped way until arriving at the butcher immediately outside Carrefour. Various animal parts hang from metal rods along the display window. Exposed to the open air and eager customer stares, the meat is selected without hesitation and promptly grabbed by mostly bare-handed butchers who gingerly slice the meat into manageable slabs.

Duck heads stare at me with open eyes and I wonder how people actually consume these. But then again the Chinese somehow eat and enjoy chicken feet so I guess anything is possible.

While I happily snap away on my camera, Jenny buys some seasoned duck meat that is actually very good. Ignoring the glove-free hands of the butchers, I watch them slice away with ease.

However my voyeurism is suddenly noticed through the window. The butchers start waving enthusiastically and posing for my pictures with peace signs and OK signs.  I wave back and give a thumbs up while slowly retreating. At least they are having fun!

Afterwards, Jenny treats me to ice cream and we discuss my motivation to become a personal trainer. Talking to her is extremely enlightening. I have never really put my desire to be a personal trainer into words. I explain to Jenny that I see so many young girls and women struggling with body image, weight, and food. There seems to be a general lack of education when it comes to exercise and nutrition.

My personal struggle with food and my body was resolved by rediscovering exercise. I believe that teaching women how to build muscle and lose fat through exercise gives them the power to look better, feel better, and be better. I want to motivate people to live their best lives possible by adopting healthy behaviors that can be easily maintained for life.

But the question is, can I do this in China?

The answer will come soon.

2 thoughts on “Shanghai: Meat, Butchers, and Fitness in China

  1. Great post! And Congrats on the job! I hope you decide to take it, a little selfishly, because I want friends in Shanghai 🙂
    The meat in China really freaks me out, I’ll eat it in restaurants where I can’t see how it looked prior to being cooked, but the stuff in stores tends to trigger my gag reflex between the sight and smell. Tyler only really buys chicken and frozen seafood, I don’t think that will change much when I get there.
    I think the meat at CityShop is less intimidating, but it is more expensive.

    1. I feel like as foodies we have to experiment with different foods but the meat is definitely questionable. I have heard really good things about the produce at smaller local markets but the meat? I really don’t know. At least your husband cooks! My boyfriend doesn’t even know how to turn on the stove haha.

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