After wrapping up the shoot in Beijing, the “Meat World: China” documentary team has headed south to Jiangxi province. That’s nearly 20 hours by train. But this time, no one had to stand: the crew had sleeper seats. In Jiangxi they have documented more threads in China’s meat and dairy story. They spent a day with a young, factory-farm entrepreneur who’s about to open a new pig facility and followed two brothers running a thriving milk business. They also filmed inside a homegrown Chinese fast food restaurant, Donald Macky, and had lunch with the owners (they didn’t eat what you might expect).
Jiangxi, perhaps China’s most forested province, includes parts of the Yangtze River, the city of Jingdezhen (known as the “world porcelain capital”), a number of noted Buddhist temples, and Mt. Jinggangshan, which played a central role in the revolution that led to the founding of the modern Chinese republic. Also located in Jiangxi is director Jian Yi’s ARTiSIMPLE Studio. It has incubated a number of collaborative community and citizen-led projects, as well as documentary and feature films.
“Easy and fruitful” is how Jian Yi describes the shoot in Jiangxi so far. Making the rounds with Mr. Wang, to a slaughterhouse and the pig factory-style farm under construction, was both exciting’to see behind the scenes of how the industry works’and depressing, too, Jian Yi reports: the facility, he says, was like a concentration camp. The pigs Mr. Wang bought had been set to arrive that day, to be put into the steel pens where they’ll spend most of the rest of their lives. But the weather was too hot. (In fact, the crew was told, it’s getting hotter each year.) Instead, Mr. Wang went to another facility to learn how to put the pigs into the stalls.
Jian Yi asked Mr. Wang about global warming, and the pigs’ wastes and the pollution risks (manure from factory-style animal facilities is a major source of water pollution’if not the major one’of water pollution in many of China’s waterways). He replied that he’d done all he could to protect the environment, and that the manure and other wastes would be treated; the government, Mr. Wang continued, had invested in a system that would make this possible. He might, Jian Yi, says, be defending himself. But, he adds, it’s important to be fair to Mr. Wang and, throughout the shoot, to capture different points of view’a point on which we all agree.
Mr. Wang, and the Bin brothers, who are in the milk business, are enthusiastic about the possibilities for growth. Mr. Wang is planning to expand to Shanghai and Guangdong. His business is still in its early stages and isn’t, comparatively, that big. “He’s still waiting for his huge expansion,” Jian Yi says. He adds that before leaving Beijing he bought one of China’s best newspapers, Southern Weekend. In it, he read that three of China’s richest men are investing in industrial pig farms. “It seems,” Jian Yi comments, “that we are going down this road [to industrial animal agriculture], although maybe another swine flu comes [along] and everything changes.” Up next: lunch and a wrenching scene of transport.