Saturday 16 February 2013

Horse meat? It's comparison...

About the horse thing.  I’ve resisted commenting cos I run the risk of sounding like a smug vegetarian (and, let's be honest, there is little more irritating than a smug vegetarian) but, the more it goes on, the more I puzzle. 

First up. People are upset because they’ve been eating horse.  Well, honestly, meat is meat, isn’t it? I’ve said it before but really, I don’t get why one kind of flesh is acceptable while another isn’t.  When I ate meat, I ate anything – pretty much. I ate bambi and badger and zebra and snake and eel and whatever.  I kinda don’t get why – if we’re really logical, rather than sentimental – there is any difference.  What am I missing? Okay, some animals wouldn’t be so good to eat – because of their own dining habits – but generally speaking flesh is flesh. And yet some is taboo. Interesting, huh?

Second up.  I do get the drug thing. I get that people don’t want to eat horse because horsemeat could have drugs in it. But – and here’s my puzzlement – pretty much all meat has drugs in it.  Animals bred to be eaten tend to have antibiotics and hormones and so on. Some of them have a heck of a lot of it. Organic meat not so much…   But really, if you’re eating non-organic meat, you’re eating drugs.  End of.

Third up.  I get the whole ‘But we should know what’s in our food’ thing.  I really do.  But, riddle me this, how come we’re suddenly all ‘OMG!’ about what goes in our food?  There has been all kind of crap in processed food for decades.  I first went vegetarian after doing a story for iD magazine looking at the food industry. I haven’t touched processed food since. 
See that pic?  Ice cream? Marshmallow? Nope.  That's MSM - mechanically separated meat. MEAT! It's what they use to make things like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, salami, pepperoni and other processed meats.  Basically they take everything, and I mean everything (bones and eyeballs and all) and mince it up. Then, because it’s crawling with bacteria, they wash it with ammonia. And then, because it tastes disgusting, they stuff it with artificial flavouring. And then, because it’s alarmingly pink (let’s not think about why) they dye it with artificial colour.  And then they cook it and people eat it. Children eat it.  Nice huh? 

I could go on and on but I don't want to put you off your tea.  

And now there’s a flap about a bit of horse in beef burgers.  Honestly, it’s the tip of the iceberg.  Let's not even start on GMO.  

But if it makes you think about what you’re eating, about what you’re giving your children to eat, then I reckon it’s a good thing.  We should care about what we eat.  For our own health and for the wellbeing of the animals we eat we should ensure they’ve had a decent life and a humane death.  So, yeah, like the news reports are saying – use your local butcher; support local accountable farmers with good wellbeing records.   

But then people say they can’t afford good quality meat.  Well, eat less of it. It's not essential to a healthy diet.  Go partly or fully vegetarian. I can't and won't tell you what to do but, truly, I spend a pittance on food for myself.  Nuts are pricey and I do have a tofu addiction – but those are my luxury items. Vegetables, pulses, seeds, fruit…cheap as chips really.  Ah, but you don’t have time, I hear you say?  Do I spend hours cooking?  You gotta be kidding.  I either eat it raw (ie no preparation at all) or I stir-fry (minutes) or I bung everything in a slow cooker and let it cook itself.

Right.  I’ll shut up now.  

Except that - I made damn sure there were no horse puns in this post – but I bet you won't spare me ‘em in the comments.  *smile* 


Rachel Selby said...

Exactly! This is exactly what I've been saying. Even the 'horses are pets like cats and dogs' doesn't hols up because there's no uproar about rabbit stew. I'm sharing this post all over the place in the hope that peeps will see how silly they're being. Thank you.

Fennie said...

Yup - you've got it in one. I'd say.
Except you left out the chicken feathers.

Ivy said...

Well I mostly agree with what your write, but I have never agreed more than reading today's blog. I am not a vegetarian but I know exactly where the meat I eat comes from and would never eat any meat in a restaurant...( or processed food)

Adam said...

I've eaten horse a few times quite deliberately - ordered it for preference more than once. It's not "that it's a horse" which concerns me. Animals slaughtered for meat go through a pretty rigourous process to ensure public safety in the UK, that illegal meat has entered the food chain means that this process has been sidestepped. I'm patently not averse to eating dobbin, thumper, nutkin, fido or even Mr. Frisky - what I object to is the deliberate sidestepping of procedures which are there for public safety, solely in the name of profit.

the veg artist said...

I agree totally. I have coeliac, and am paranoid about there not being gluten in what I eat - so I make it all myself, using raw ingredients. It's not difficult (but then I belong to the generation of girls who were still taught to cook in our otherwise academic school!). It doesn't take long. I cook more than I need, and freeze in small portions. And, like you, I eat nuts and fruit.
I eat really well, cheaply, and with not a processed meal in sight!

LeeAnn at Mrs Black's said...

I am celiac too, and delicate. So paranoid about what I eat. But really, how could anyone truly belive that you could buy good, honest meat - or anything REAL at the prices of some of these food items? I am always disgusted with 'bargain' food. I like cows too, why are we often so precious about other beats welfare and forget cows have feelings too?

Unknown said...

Horsemeat is purely about supermarket profit. A butcher I know told me the other day that 1 ton of horsemeat costs about £800 wholesale. Minced beef, not steak or joint, just mince, costs about £2500 a ton. So which is Mr Fat Cat Supermarket owner going to put in his cottage pie to ensure he maintains his high profits. If people stil insist on buying cheap, off the shelf ready meals, then at least let them be labelledd correctly!

Exmoorjane said...

Thanks for all the comments. Adam and YM - I totally agree with you. I'm all for honest clear all-inclusive labelling. And yes, it's about profit, of course it is. I just find it interesting that it takes the thought of eating Black Beauty to bring the debate to people's attention.

String said...

Maybe there is something to the notion that the foods are mainly budget foods and not being scrutinised quite as closely as other foods. I agree with the posts re: sidestepping procedures in the name of profit – unfortunately for many lower income families – who do eat meat, organic meat may not be a feasible option. It all revolves around a lack of education on healthy eating and the rush to make profit from quick meals. The growing use of GM and antibiotics and other drugs in animals is alarming – ALL of this needs to be regulated as the compounded effect could cause serious ramifications for all health systems.

From the NYTimes - “Eighty percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States goes to chicken, pigs, cows and other animals that people eat, yet producers of meat and poultry are not required to report how they use the drugs — which ones, on what types of animal, and in what quantities. This dearth of information makes it difficult to document the precise relationship between routine antibiotic use in animals and antibiotic-resistant infections in people, scientists say.” Something scientists say could cause a major public health crisis, not only in the US but elsewhere.

It appears to be an issue which points to many other larger problems in the food chain.

sarahhillwheeler said...

I agree, broadly, you demolish all of the usual arguments excellently. Agree too that if this horse meat thing has got us thinking more about food, and its hidden costs, that's no bad thing.

However, I do wonder if, at some level, we do still care about where our food comes from, possibly just not enough. Alot of the time, I think we (well, most of us) don't want to think about where our meat comes from too much (as long as it's cheap and plentiful). We trust the Government to get it right and protect us (pretty dumb, when you think about it). Or perhaps we just turn a blind eye, thinking we've ticked that box and are then brought up sharp.

I love the pink modified meat, truly gross, although it does remind me of a spam joint an ex-boyfriend once bought in our far off student days.

I've been a bit hit and miss carrying through my good intentions to the kitchen but we are now defintely making more trips to the local butcher and committing to a meat-free Monday.