The Reason Frozen Food Isn't As Common In China

Grocery stores across the United States brim with aisles and aisles of frozen goodies. From frozen pizza to frozen food dinners to frozen burritos, if you can eat it, there's a good chance you can find it in the frozen food aisle.

While frozen (and refrigerated) foods are popular globally, there are some places where the technology hasn't quite caught on. Americans live in a food culture where people buy perishable products, then store them in the fridge, freezer, or pantry until they're ready to eat them. The Chinese food culture is one where food is eaten in season, and fresh, preserving the nutrients of each ingredient (via China Highlights).

In a 2008 essay for The Atlantic, Michael Strickland writes about the grocery options that were available in his aunt's neighborhood of Jiaxiang during the time he lived there. The author writes that many merchants sold just one type of product to consumers, while butchers often slaughtered and sold their meat on the same day – taking away the need for foods that require long-term preservation.

Fresh is best for many Chinese families

If you're a visitor to China, it's very likely you'll see locals frequenting a market daily. Fresh meat and chicken, as well as freshly harvested vegetables, are purchased at what's called wet markets (via China Highlights).

Some Chinese people make their food selections based on the principles of the seasonality of Chinese medicine, in order to balance the yin and the yang. The tenets of Chinese medicine specify that food should be eaten as fresh as possible while in season in order to achieve a balance of yin or yang.

According to Chinese medicine practitioner and acupuncturist Tsao-Lin E. Moy, yin-balancing foods are thought of as cooling and include apples, broccoli, celery, watermelon, yogurt, and pears (via Mind Body Green). Yang balancing foods are foods that bring fire or heat to your body. Yang foods include beef, oats, onions, sweet potatoes, and wheat.

The passion to eat fresh foods in season in order to receive the maximum nutritional benefit means there's not a market for freezers. There's an even smaller need for canned food, which is considered less desirable than even frozen foods.