North Korea is breeding black swans for people to eat, as the reclusive nation faces a crippling food shortage


two black swans with a cygnet

Black swans and a cygnet seen in Christchurch, New Zealand, on October 01, 2021. Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto via Getty Images

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared a food shortage in June and asked people for solutions.

  • State media said Monday that the country is now breading black swans to slaughter for their meat.

  • A United Nations expert said in early October that the country’s food shortage was perilous.

North Korea has started breeding black swans to slaughter for their meat as the country battles to solve a crippling food shortage.

The secretive nation has long struggled to maintain its food supplies, but the crisis has recently worsened after typhoons wiped out crops and the country shut its borders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

On Monday, state media said that a new plan to breed swans would help alleviate the crisis.

“Black swan meat is delicious and has medicinal value,” the official government newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in an article published Monday.

According to the newspaper, Ri Jong Nam, the chief party secretary for South Hamgyong province, opened a black swan breeding center on October 24 on the country’s east coast.

The plan to breed swans was first conceived in early 2019, according to the North Korea monitoring website NK News.

“The solution is meant to address both the failure of large-scale farming to provide adequate food supplies to the whole country and more recent government COVID-19-related restrictions that have largely blocked food and other imports since early 2020,” Colin Zwirko, senior analytic correspondent at NK News, wrote of the swan project.

In June, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared a “tense” food crisis and, in September, urged North Koreans to come up with solutions to the “food problem,” NK News said.

The price of some goods across North Korea has reportedly shot up as a result of the crisis. In June, a kilogram of bananas cost the equivalent of $45, NK News said.

In early October, a United Nations expert said that the food shortage was precarious, Reuters reported.

While swan meat is not readily available in the US and much of Europe, it was not always so.

Contemporary records suggest that swan meat was an acceptable ingredient in France in the 1300s, England in the Victorian era, and North America during the 18th century.

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