The truth about cheap beef – is it really being sold as pork in online markets?

In the era of 4.0, many housewives save time by purchasing goods from small traders on the internet market. However, with the abundance of advertisements selling fresh and cheap beef, how many wise people can choose to buy high-quality products?

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On the weekend, Ms. Dang Thi Ngoc (Hanoi) planned to cook a “fresh” meal for the whole family. Sitting in the office, she picked up her phone and called her regular meat seller at the market to place an order. However, since it was Saturday and many households were having feasts, some of the items she intended to buy were already sold out early in the day.

Having announced that she would treat her husband and children to seafood hot pot and grilled beef, Ms. Ngoc had to find another source to purchase the ingredients. Scrolling through online market groups in her area, she quickly found what she needed.

“I saw someone from my neighborhood selling fresh beef that was sourced directly from the slaughterhouse in Ba Vi. She said that since her regular customers placed orders for good quality beef, she made the trip to the slaughterhouse and took extra 3 kilograms of beef. Seeing the picture she took of the fresh and delicious-looking meat, and considering that the seller was from the neighborhood, I felt reassured. Before making the purchase, I even asked if the beef was really fresh, and she confirmed that it was as delightful as pictured,” Ms. Ngoc recounted.

The beef was “delivered” to her house, and she called her daughter to receive the package. After work, she swung by the market to pick up the remaining groceries she had previously ordered, and then headed home. She hurriedly started preparing the evening meal in the kitchen.

Once she opened the fridge, she was surprised to find that the piece of beef had a lot of liquid inside. Thinking that her daughter may have rinsed it, she asked, and her daughter replied that when she received the package, the piece of beef was already damp. 

Holding the beef, which lacked elasticity and felt dry to the touch, Ms. Ngoc called the seller back to inquire. “With a price of 200,000 VND per kilogram, this is the freshest and most delicious beef, ma’am. If you want something even better, you can buy the 260,000 – 270,000 VND per kilogram range,” the seller said confidently.

Worried about the quality of the beef, Ms. Ngoc reluctantly removed the grilled beef from the dinner menu for her family.

Posts about selling cheap beef flooding social media like pork

Not only Ms. Ngoc, but many other housewives have also purchased items online, trusting the sellers who claimed to have “meat sourced directly, guaranteed to be fresh and delicious just like in the pictures”… only to end up with poor quality beef.

Ms. Huong Giang (Son Tay, Hanoi) shared her story: “My family used to plan to open a beef-based business, including beef wrapped in vinegar leaves and grilled beef on the sidewalk, so many people offered their products. They all claimed that their beef was frozen, with a price of just over 100,000 VND per kilogram. Fresh beef of that quality would never be that cheap. Luckily, I changed my plan and opened a coffee shop instead; otherwise, I might have also purchased from those sellers.”

Ms. Giang revealed that the available food suppliers have a list of items that street vendors who sell grilled beef, pho rolls, crab noodle soup, etc. usually stock. “The prices are around 100,000 VND per kilogram for beef chuck, 130,000 VND per kilogram for beef sirloin, and 95,000 VND per kilogram for beef flank… They mix and match according to the needs of the vendors. There is even pre-cut beef sirloin available for just over 100,000 VND per kilogram with orders from 10 kilograms or more. Street vendors only have those prices, allowing them to offer buffet sets at 149,000 – 169,000 VND per serving,” she explained.

Ms. Dang Thi Ngoc said, “It really seemed like a dream come true to find fresh beef online. There are advertisements everywhere with unbelievably low prices. After that online purchase, I decided to stay loyal to the meat seller at the market. She has been selling there for years, and if her meat wasn’t fresh and delicious, she wouldn’t be able to maintain her business at the market; she always runs out of stock faster than other vendors.”

A piece of fresh and delicious beef should always be tender, shiny, elastic, and have good texture

While chatting with the meat seller at the market, Ms. Ngoc received some advice on how to choose good quality beef:

“Fresh and delicious beef should always be tender, shiny, elastic, and have good texture. For beef ribs, it is best to choose whole pieces with lots of lean meat. Rib meat with fat is tender but has a strong, beefy smell, so it’s only suitable for grilling. Good quality beef sirloin costs between 250,000 and 270,000 VND per kilogram. Prime ribeye (beef tenderloin) with good quality costs about 400,000 – 450,000 VND per kilogram, and there isn’t much available. Frozen meat is priced from just 130,000 – 140,000 VND per kilogram,” she advised.

Photo: NVCC