When police raided an illegal food storage site in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi autonomous region, they found decades-old chicken feet waiting to be processed. Some even dated to 1967, during the tumultuous days of the Cultural Revolution.
The storage site, raided by police in May, was run by a gang that reportedly smuggled chicken feet, beef tripe and cartilage from Vietnam across the porous border to Guangxi.
Some 20 tonnes of meat were seized in the raid, according to Xinhua . The bygone chicken feet, in particular, were brought into China frozen; they would then be processed with bleach and other chemicals to add weight and improve its colouring.
Through this process, the group managed to turn 1kg of old chicken feet into 1.5kg of seemingly fresh chicken feet, making up to 16,000 yuan (HK$20,230) profit on each tonne.
Local police quoted by the paper said that most inferior-quality meat had been smuggled from Vietnam. Over the last 12 months, police at the border hub Fangchenggang pursued seven similar cases of smuggled chicken feet, seizing 20 million yuan worth of tampered product.
"The entire processing facilty had a fishy and foul smell," Li Jianmin, from the local Public Security Bureau told the news agency. "You just couldn't stand it after one or two minutes."
Chicken feet are not the only items smuggled from the southern neighbour. Illegal imports of bear paws are also booming, according to the report. Last year, 141 smuggled bear paws were confiscated in one raid, Guangxi Forestry Police chief Luo Weidong told the news agency.
The paws had already started to rot and smell. Restaurants would cook the paws, which can cost thousands of yuan, in a way that would hide the smell.
In a similar case in May, two Russians were arrested in Inner Mongolia when they tried to smuggle 213 bear paws into China, worth 2.8 million yuan.
Newspaper reports on both sides of the Sino-Vietnamese border have been shaming their respective governments into tackling illegal trade.
During Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang's state visit to China last month, a crackdown on cross-border crime was one of the few points he and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping could find agreement as tensions rose over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
According to Vietnamese media, however, the ills of smuggling go the other way. Chicken, sturgeon, and fruit and vegetable imports from China have been blamed for undercutting local prices. One of the more weird recent cases was that of Chinese-made "witch pens " reportedly smuggled to Vietnam to defraud locals with fraudulent contracts.