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May Environmental Concerns Cook Peking Duck's Goose?
The cooking method of Beijing Quanjude Roast Duck, having long enjoyed a great reputation in the capital city and all over the world, is facing imminent change to meet environmental standards. And the question arises whether the public will accept ducks cooked by a new method as the same product.

Jiang Junxian, chairman of the board of directors and general manager of the Beijing Quanjude Group, the most famous producer of the delicacy, said that, since the traditional method whereby ducks are roasted directly over flames stoked by fruit-tree wood always results in a lot of smoke and dust, the Beijing municipal government now requires restaurants to gradually develop a new cooking method, such as the use of electricity. In its determination to create a clean environment, the city government is now targeting the legendary roast ducks.

The traditional way of roasting ducks has a history of several hundred years. Fruit-tree wood is not only one of the necessary materials in the particular process of roasting ducks, but also has become an important part of Chinese food culture. But, for a considerable period, Beijing’s environmental protection department has been quietly urging the Quanjude Group to change its ways, said Jiang Junxian. Considering that the action would probably ruin the illustrious brand name, and with no unified standard available, the decision to change kept getting delayed.

However, canceling of the use of fruit-tree wood is the trend of the times. There are more than 1,000 roast duck restaurants in Beijing, discharging smoke and dust into the air everyday. The cooking method also poses a potential fire hazard. Moreover, the traditional way is still involves manual operation. Cooks with different skills and mood make different quality products, running counter to the global trend in the catering industry to achieve a product of stable and scientific quality. This, said Jiang, now required computer-controlled ovens. So far, the Quanjude Group has promoted the use of computer-controlled ovens in some branch restaurants, and these roast ducks are as delicious as those roasted by traditional ways.

Experts said that, technically, there are no obstacles to canceling the use of fruit-tree wood. The problem lies in two areas: whether the new method can be accepted by consumers and whether small restaurants can cope with the higher operation costs involved.

(China.org.cn, translated by Li Jingrong, June 27, 2002)

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