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?

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9 Responses to Horsegate

  1. Starstone says:

    Luckily I haven’t heard of it at all, I hardly ever watch the news and I don’t eat meat so a lot of things go by me 😉 I’m not too surprised by any of it though 😉

    And I’ve made sure to sign the “not for human consumption” in the passports of all my my horses as well… Mostly to make sure that I am always allowed to treat them myself, because in Denmark, if the horse needs antibiotics for a week, the vet has to come by and give it to them every single day, unless you sign that they can’t be eaten… then it’s just a pet and I can inject them myself all I want… got to love those kind of rules…

  2. runningcupcake says:

    I think it had highlighted major issues with the food chain. Really, if the suppliers are letting horse meat get into beef products, (and the horses being “contaminated” with Bute is another matter) what other corners are they cutting? You expect that after the BSE crisis that food chains were sorted out a bit, but clearly they are all still cost cutting, cutting corners etc. And you are right, the supermarkets are still raking in the massive profits while the farmers struggle on.

  3. Great post! I keep yelling at the TV when they talk about it, for me its the thing about purchasing poor quality food products. I don’t think its excusable to sell something as one thing when it contains something else, but seriously what do people think when they are eating processed rubbish? I just hope the whole thing makes people think more about where their food comes from and sends more customers the way of farm shops and butchers 🙂

  4. This story just shows you the sorry state of the food chain, who knows ow long it has been going on for. Its awful to think people are not aware of what they are eating. The majority of people eating this processed junk will be lower income families who have no choice given the price of food these days. Hopefully it ward them off buying the processed stuff and prioritise their spending to buy better quality meat.

  5. Jess says:

    I think that if it gets people to stop eating/eat less meat then Horsegate might be a positive thing in some ways. Or at least it might get people to question where their food comes from and not be so removed from what they’re eating.

    I understand the furore in terms of trades descriptions etc. but the moral outrage has me perplexed because it’s strange that people are so averse to eating horses, yet will quite happily chow down on cows, which aren’t exactly far removed from horses. I’ve always found the selective compassion towards animals in these cases hypocritical, really. As you say, if you buy uber-cheap meat, what do you expect!?


  6. Yep it’s hardly a huge surprise. Bargain burgers and £1 lasagnes. I mean come on, it’s hardly prime ingredients in those meals. What’s ridiculous is that we have so many of our own farms in this country and yet because it’s cheaper to import we go elsewhere for meat. And then get outraged when we don’t know everything that’s in the product.
    That first picture did make me chuckle though…

  7. I’ve stayed away from reading much about it because I think it’d be unsettling to know too much about it!

  8. Since I’m a vegetarian, I think it’s gross, and ridiculous! But I probably have a more extreme perspective haha

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