Wet market
A wet market is generally an open food market. Some of the common names include "Cultural Markets", "traditional markets", "Gaai Si", "Gaai See".


The floors and surroundings are often routinely sprayed and washed with water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

—to the extent of flooding it at frequent intervals—which gave it the name "wet market".


The main characteristics of the market have traditionally been associated with a place that sells live animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

s out in the open. The collection may include poultry
Poultry are domesticated birds kept by humans for the purpose of producing eggs, meat, and/or feathers. These most typically are members of the superorder Galloanserae , especially the order Galliformes and the family Anatidae , commonly known as "waterfowl"...

, fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

, reptile
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

s, and pig
A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives...

s. Depending on the region, animals are usually caged and killed for live preparation. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also available. Wet markets generally include butcher
A butcher is a person who may slaughter animals, dress their flesh, sell their meat or any combination of these three tasks. They may prepare standard cuts of meat, poultry, fish and shellfish for sale in retail or wholesale food establishments...

 shops and fish market
Fish market
A fish market is a marketplace used for marketing fish products. It can be dedicated to wholesale trade between fishermen and fish merchants, or to the sale of seafood to individual consumers, or to both...

s, which are in a separate section from the fruit and vegetable stalls.

The traditional rationale for a wet market in hot climates, was that in the days before refrigeration
Refrigeration is a process in which work is done to move heat from one location to another. This work is traditionally done by mechanical work, but can also be done by magnetism, laser or other means...

 was commonly available, the purchase of a live animal just prior to the time that it was to be eaten was the only way to ensure that it had not spoilt
Meat spoilage
The spoilage of meat occurs, if the meat is untreated, in a matter of hours or days and results in the meat becoming unappetizing, poisonous or infectious. Spoilage is caused by the practically unavoidable infection and subsequent decomposition of meat by bacteria and fungi, which are borne by the...


The higher hygiene standards of supermarket
A supermarket, a form of grocery store, is a self-service store offering a wide variety of food and household merchandise, organized into departments...

s have forced many wet markets to operate indoors.

In general, the owner of a wet market owns and maintains the building. Stalls are rented out to retailers, who purchase and sell their goods independently. This is in contrast to a supermarket which is operated by a single company.

Wet market vs supermarket

Supermarkets have become heavily industrialized, often using chemicals and other preservatives to mass produce and package for longer shelf life
Shelf life
Shelf life is the length of time that food, drink, medicine, chemicals, and many other perishable items are given before they are considered unsuitable for sale, use, or consumption...

. Wet market products are generally stored for short periods of time and are always expected to be fresh. The process of freezing and chilling and its related thawing can rupture the cells in meat, leading to a common complaint that such products have a cotton wool like texture
Mouthfeel is a product's physical and chemical interaction in the mouth, an aspect of food rheology. It is a concept used in many areas related to the testing and evaluating of foodstuffs, such as wine-tasting and rheology. It is evaluated from initial perception on the palate, to first bite,...


For some customers, it is important to see the animal live before being sold. Specifically, they may want to check its health and quality. This is generally not an option in supermarkets, except in lobster
Clawed lobsters comprise a family of large marine crustaceans. Highly prized as seafood, lobsters are economically important, and are often one of the most profitable commodities in coastal areas they populate.Though several groups of crustaceans are known as lobsters, the clawed lobsters are most...

 or fish booths. Most wet markets have facilities for allowing a customer to choose a live animal, then either take it home as is or watch it killed and cleaned. Some big-box stores, such as Walmart, provide these facilities in their Far East
Far East
The Far East is an English term mostly describing East Asia and Southeast Asia, with South Asia sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons.The term came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 19th century,...

ern stores, but not in their U.S. stores.


In many cultures, freshness is desired over the welfare of animals, in some cases to the point of animals and fish being butchered and skinned without first being killed. Animals are kept alive as long as possible, and are often caged in tiny enclosures. The slaughter and butchering has historically been performed in front of customers upon request. The image of butcher shops and markets filled with live animals has been heavily criticized in many countries.


If sanitation
Sanitation is the hygienic means of promoting health through prevention of human contact with the hazards of wastes. Hazards can be either physical, microbiological, biological or chemical agents of disease. Wastes that can cause health problems are human and animal feces, solid wastes, domestic...

 standards are not maintained, wet markets can easily spread disease
A disease is an abnormal condition affecting the body of an organism. It is often construed to be a medical condition associated with specific symptoms and signs. It may be caused by external factors, such as infectious disease, or it may be caused by internal dysfunctions, such as autoimmune...

 and viruses. Because of the openness, newly introduced animals may come in direct contact with sales clerks, butchers and customers. Insects such as flies
Fließ is a municipality in the Landeck district and is located5 km south of Landeck on the upper course of the Inn River. It has 9 hamlets and was already populated at the roman age; the village itself was founded around the 6th century. After a conflagration in 1933 Fließ was restored more...

 have relatively easy access to the food products. Many times the carcasses are thrown on the floor to be butchered more easily.


Depending on the country, food administration groups may or may not require licensing to sell food in the markets. There is usually no return policy. If stale products are sold, liabilities vary greatly depending on how the government manages it.

See also

  • Asian supermarket
    Asian supermarket
    An Asian supermarket, sometimes called an "Oriental supermarket", is a grocery store in non-Asian countries that stocks items imported from the many countries in East and Southeast Asia. They carry items and ingredients generally well-suited for Asian cuisines and not found in most Western...

  • Pasar pagi
    Pasar pagi
    Pasar pagi is a type of market found in Malaysia and Indonesia, quite similar to a wet market. Pasar pagi and pasar malam are different - pasar pagi opens in the daytime everyday while Pasar malam opens at night and only on selected days of a week...

  • Pasar malam
    Pasar malam
    Pasar malam is a Malay and Indonesian word that literally means "night market", "pasar" being related to "bazaar" in Persian. A pasar malam is a street market in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore that opens in the evening, usually in residential neighbourhoods.It brings together a collection of...

  • farmer's market
  • Palengke
    A palengke is a type of public market common throughout the Philippines.A palengke is usually composed of several dozen stalls arranged in rows under a shared roof. Management is usually by the local governmental units whose jurisdiction encompasses the physical location of the markets...

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