I was in a Tesco cafe and the waitress asked if i would like anything on my burger, I said yes, I’ll have a fiver each way!

I’m not too sure how far internationally the news has spread about the discovery of horsemeat in beef burgers sold in Tesco’s, so apologies if the above joke leaves a blank look on your face. Of course you may not find it funny, the joke that is, which may equally leave you with a blank look!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21038521 This BBC article should provide you with a better overview of the news.

I have to say that this discovery does not surprise me, aware as I am of some of the methods of food processing that the modern world uses to provide us with low cost nutrition. In fact nutrition is probably the wrong word to use as it is often the last thing considered by the manufacturer of a product which simply has to come in under a certain price point and fill the space in your stomach.

The biggest drivers of this need for cheap sustenance seem to be the supermarkets, of course we drive them by our demand, but they seem to have provided the catalyst in the first place; the promise of low cost food all in one convenient location was too much of a temptation for the masses to ignore and now we have reached the point where they dominate the retail sector and supply about 75% of all our food.

Of course with such a dominant position in the food supply chain they can use their power to drive down prices to provide us with low cost food, but their ability to purchase globally enforces unfair market conditions which then leads to a decline in the market of locally grown and reared produce, as they simply cannot compete. That is unless you produce a substandard product and or use unorthodox methods to make your product at the price point demanded of your supermarket purchasing department. No wonder horse meat ends up in your burger!

The really worrying thing about this is that if it wasn’t for an Irish government departments decision to carry out an investigation then this could have gone unchecked, which also means that it is more than possible that it has gone unnoticed for many years, even decades and may well effect a bigger part of your shopping basket than you would like to think.

The inability and sometimes reluctance of some countries, even those within the EU, to adhere to the food standards that we have drafted over many years in the UK; it is hard to believe that those without any framework at all have any obligation or inclination to follow our rules. Their rules are those dictated by the supermarkets, and if all they have to do is tick a box to say that the pigs where not fed on other animal products or that the meat is only from one type of animal then the box will be ticked, and very rarely checked.

But I wonder, will an incident like this actually change the shopping habits of people who insist on spending less than 10 % of their wealth on the most essential of all things, or will they simply continue to eat whatever is put in front of them irrelevant of ingredient or nutritional value as long as the price is right?

I could go on, and on and on; as I am sure you have guessed I’m not into globalisation and can only hope that one day the cost of transportation or the mass failure of monoculture will drive the cost of food to a realistic and sustainable price point allowing the majority of people to eat locally produced food once again without the temptation of chickens from China or pigs from Poland sullying our dinner plates. Well I might eat a pig from Poland, but then I hope I will have reared it!

By the way, thanks to Chris Oliver for the joke; it was only a matter of time before they started to fly and also thanks to Friends of the Earth and the USDA for the spattering of statistics I used in this post.

And one final thought, the French and Italians spend almost 7% more (nearly twice as much) on their food than we do in Britain, I wonder if this has anything to do with their gastronomic traditions, love of food and pride of its regional origins?

Posted in European Union, Food, Save the world and tagged , , .

11 Comments

  1. We live in South-Central Missouri, in the very middle of the US. We have had several occasions recently where a horse slaughtering facility has been proposed to be built in small towns in the area. They have not been “allowed” in any of our immediate area, but they are somewhat common in the Midwest US. Americans, by the way, NEVER consume horse meat (at least not knowingly)! When I first read about a horse slaughtering factory coming to a nearby town, I thought, “Who the hell eats horse meat?!” It turns out, there is a thriving industry involving the chopping up of old, tired, unwanted horses and shipping them overseas to foreign markets. The US has found ways to pawn off our wretched excesses to other countries for decades, but it’s usually e-waste to third world countries or something similar, not food products to Europe. Do people purposely eat horse burger there? Or is it all “hidden” like in this instance. The newspaper said the horse meat would be sold to France.

    We have eaten as much locally sourced food as possible for a few years, and I think it’s even kind of fun to try and find a local source for everything, like a treasure hunt or something! The meat and dairy at the supermarket are no match for the meat and dairy from the farms in our area. I mean small farms, of course, not one of the many factory farms in our state.The price seems to have stabilized somewhat recently, and I’ve seen Wal-Mart beef priced higher than the beef we buy from a friend.

    I feel bioregionalism is the only answer to the problems we have today. If you can’t grow/produce it yourself, there is someone near you who can. I mean the necessities, not crap that we think are necessities, like an i-pod or something.

    I hope you don’t mind the long comment – I thought you might be interested in the horse meat info 🙂

    • All comments gratefully received and appreciated, it’s interesting to hear people’s views, especially when they are not directly affected by the issue.
      I continued this topic in a few more posts after reading about the American race horses that are shipped into Europe as they often contain ‘bute’, it now transpires that 5% of all the infected products do in fact contain bute “but not at levels harmful to humans” Where have I heard that before!
      We look forward to rearing our own meat, one of the reasons we intend to pant so many potatoes and oats; all good animal fodder for next year. Bioregionalism, great word which I had never heard before and I couldn’t agree more; it’s the only way forward, if only more people would make the same choice 🙂

      • I truly feel people like you and I, who lead by example, are going to be the catalyst for real change. People see what can be done, and how happy the folks doing it usually are, and they get braver! Keep inspiring!

    • I think that is the key, I know it costs a little more sometimes, but it’s worth the peace of mind and you are also supporting a local industry.
      Oddly enough the butchers in Poland are cheaper than Tesco’s

  2. Antibiotics in meat is why we started eating lower on the food chain about 15 years ago. Then I read an article that one in three men will get prostate cancer which can be prevented about 75% of the time by not eating meat and dairy…that sealed the deal. We don’t have to worry about downer cows, mad cow disease, tainted meat, or horse meat. That being said, I have a respect for people who raise their own animals and kill them themselves. At least they know where their meat is coming from.

    • We certainly hope to do just that (raise our own), although it’s a long road before we get there, the best we can do in the meantime is try and source the best we can to supplement what we managed this produce this year; mind you a Polish diet is quite heavily vegetarian.
      I also heard that almost 70% of the horsemeat exported from the Americas (north and south included) is shipped to Europe. But by the time it gets here is simply labelled as processed meat and could contain any number of drugs that may have been administered without knowing that the meat would end up as food for humans. Bute is one very scary drug commonly used in domestic horses, but very bad when it enters the food chain; highly carcinogenic. It quite worrying really.

  3. Yes, a lot of people have lost touch with where meat comes from and what processed food is really all about and the prices of ‘value’ products are artificially low, so consumers expect this and may balk at paying for locally sourced and grown product – now considered premium. Food provenence is what drove me to be vegetarian many years ago, although I don’t have an issue now with eating horse – I’d just want to know WHAT I was eating, that’s the risk with such food. Trust in supermarkets plummets yet again. On a lighter note, like the joke – here’s another couple:
    A woman was sent to hospital after eating a horse meat burger. Her condition is said to be stable.
    My favourite though, a spoof Tesco advert: ‘So hungry you could eat a horse? Don’t worry, we’ve got it covered. Tesco, Every little helps’…. Apologies, couldn’t resist. Tracey

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