While the most affluent residents of Beijing indulge in pricey bottles of imported Canadian mountain wind, most residents have few options to get relief from the heavy smog. Some buy plastic bags of cheaper — but often fake — Tibetan breezes, and the truly poor resort to sucking out pockets of trapped air from styrofoam manufactured in the less polluted west of the country.
But the growing middle class in China’s capital city has discovered a new form of imported Canadian air, one that comes at just a fraction of the price of fresh air but is said to be just as enjoyable: bottled Canadian farts.
Users admit that Canadian flatulence is an acquired taste, but once you’ve breathed it in four or five times, you’re hooked for life, they insist.
“When you first try Canadian farts, you’re overwhelmed by the stench of sulphur and the odor of soggy bacon, overlaid with the unpleasant yeasty stink of cheap beer,” said Han Wu, a Beijing noodle vendor who inhales up to three bottles of Canadian farts per day. “First-timers usually end up puking.”
“But behind the initial funk, you get a clear scent of the Rocky Mountains,” he said. “Pine trees and crisp chinooks blowing across blue lakes, and for a moment you forget that you’re in the world’s smoggiest city.”
The sole exporter of Canadian flatulence is a Calgary-based company called Northern Winds, which for years has been selling compressed farts, mostly to expats who miss their countrymen’s acrid smells. Founder and CEO Jack Péter says that he’s not surprised by the Chinese demand for his product, given his firm’s commitment to providing the best gas.
“We send our people all over the place, from coffee shops to high-school cafeterias, from truck stops to nursing homes,” Péter said. “Wherever people have gas to expel, we’ll be there.”
Northern Winds currently sells 20 varieties of scents, each given a colorful name like Mountie Ass Mist and Trucker’s Butt Bocquet. By far, the top-selling scent in China is Barroom Brawl, which Péter says is, surprisingly, the easiest to collect.
“We go into dive bars and local watering holes, and we tell patrons that we’ll buy them a drink if they fart into a canister for us,” Péter said. “Late mornings are the best time, because that’s when you find the real drinkers, the guys with the craziest dramas being played out in their intestinal tracts.”
A single barfly’s contribution can fill a dozen 7.7-liter bottles, and sometimes many more, depending on his gut flora and what he had for dinner the night before, Péter says.
Wen Yao, a Tsinghua University professor of economics, says that the interest in Canadian farts in China is a result of rising incomes and an overall demand for luxury goods from the West.
“All Chinese people today want the pleasures that were formerly reserved for business elites and Communist Party officials,” he said. “But most still cannot afford the 6000 yuan ($600) you spend on a month’s supply of fresh Canadian air for a family of three, so they take the next best thing.”
Whereas a single bottle of Canadian fresh air from a company like Vitality might cost as much as 150 yuan ($15) in a retail shop in central Beijing, a similarly sized bottle of Northern Winds can be purchased for as little as 12 yuan ($1.20).
Even though his fresh-air competitors mock him and his business, Péter says that their attitudes are driven by fear.
“The air in our bottles is better than their dull mountain wind, and they know it,” Péter said. “We’re not just selling raw product like those guys. We’re selling special air. Air that’s been putrefied and purified.”
The evidence shows that Péter may be right. The imported fresh air market in China may have already hit a plateau, but the imported farts market is expected to continue growing, and an ever-expanding class of Canadian intestinal gas connaisseurs are setting up shops and institutes all over the country to make certain that the public doesn’t lose interest in the best flatulence North Americans have to offer.
Guo Zhanan, a former wine expert who now specializes in Canadian farts, recently appeared on a popular Beijing morning show to sample a limited-edition bottle of flatus that was collected in 2013 outside of a porta-potty at a Quebec motorcycle rally.
“You can almost imagine the farter eating a huge plate of gravy-smothered poutine and washing it down with a warm Moosehead beer, all the while his lungs filling with pure Arctic wind,” Zhanan said while taking in the bottle’s contents with flared nostrils. “Lovely. Nuanced.”