I suppose the only surprising thing about this post is that I haven’t done it sooner.
For anyone who’s abroad and hasn’t heard about the horsemeat scandal, it started last month, when own-brand value burgers sold by some supermarkets, contained horse DNA. Everyone went mad, Tesco took out full-page ads in national newspapers to apologise and the media really got the bit between its teeth. Sorry.
Things were just starting to quieten down; the papers had done all the features on old nags in Romania which are sold to the slaughterhouse when they’re too old to work, tracing the journey of the meat from there, round the outskirts of Europe and eventually to the Tesco freezer… and then Findus also admitted there was horse in some of its ready meals.
And now horse is turning up in all sorts of funny places. Even Waitrose told customers it was frightfully sorry, but there were traces of pork in its value beef meatballs…
But although I would never personally eat it, I don’t think the fact it’s horse meat is the real problem. Firstly, as a friend of mine pointed out, it’s horse DNA that’s been found and DNA isn’t just in an animal’s meat, it’s in its hide, hair, hoofs and everything.
But also, I think what’s legally allowed to go in an economy burger is worse: they’re allowed to call it a beefburger it it contains 47 per cent meat. So more than half one of those delicacies can be - what? Onion, wheat flour, water, beef fat, soya protein isolate, salt, onion powder, yeast, sugar, barley malt extract, garlic powder, white pepper extract, celery extract and onion extract, if it’s a Tesco value one.
But when you’re paying about 20p a burger, as Giles Coren said in the Times, “What on earth did you think they put in them? Prime cuts of delicious free-range, organic, rare breed, heritage beef, grass-fed, Eton-educated, humanely slaughtered, dry-aged and hand-ground by fairies…?” He’s right. I’m happy to buy value fruit and veg but would never touch value meat with a bargepole.
I think part of the problem here is that food is too cheap. Farmers, by definition, should be rich. But thanks to the supermarkets’ stranglehold, they work all hours and make little if any profit. The supermarkets should pay them a decent profit for the food they produce and if they have to pass that on in price (which they shouldn’t have to; just look at their profits) then that’s how it has to be.
There should be tougher, strictly enforced laws on food labelling, so people know exactly what they’re eating and the supermarkets don’t get away with misleading people. Hopefully, this might steer people away from supermarkets’ meat, to the butchers and farm shops, where you know what you’re getting and you’re supporting local producers.
Talking of horses (and I’ve made sure I’ve signed the “not for human consumption page in THWNN’s passport”) something funny happened the other day.
I’d had the vet to take out his wolf tooth, which was really sharp and pointing forward so probably causing pain. She took it out and put it on the feed bin while we went to get the passport. We were only away a couple of seconds – but when we got back, my mate the robin was flying off with the tooth in its beak! I don’t know what he thought it was; maybe a Tesco burger…
What do you think about the whole horsemeat thing?