The current controversy over horse meat being found first in beef burgers and now in Lasagne is symptomatic of a much deeper problem.
I think it’s fairly safe to say that I’ve almost certainly eaten a burger containing horse meat over the past few months, I like them. I’m not sure if we’ve bought any Tesco value burgers, but I have been to Burger King on more than one occasion over the past few months. But I’m also sure I’ve not eaten one of the Lasagne’s containing it, how do I know? Simple, I don’t like pasta and wouldn’t eat a ready made pasta dish.
I’m not squeamish about eating horse meat and from that point of view I think it’s all a storm in a tea cup. But the bigger problem is the fact that it didn’t say ‘contains horse’ on the label, we need to be able to trust that what we are eating is correctly identified and that is the crux of the controversy. No doubt if it was on the label a significant number of consumers wouldn’t have bought it and so let’s face it that’s probably why it wasn’t on the label!
So why is it your fault? Well for a start I’ll admit it’s mine as well. As consumers we don’t want to pay more than we absolutely have to for anything, and the weekly food shop seems to be one of the biggest causes of concern. If the advertising by the supermarkets is to be believed then minimising the cost of food shopping is a primary concern, why else do they advertise how much cheaper they are on x number of brands if not to entice you into their store with the promise of paying less for your shopping?
This need to keep food costs down results in pressure from the supermarkets being applied to their suppliers to reduce their costs, let’s face it a supermarket isn’t about to reduce its profits to keep their customers costs down. So they apply pressure or simply dictate to their suppliers what they will pay, those suppliers then look for their own savings and nine times out of ten they will reduce what they pay their own suppliers, who are probably the producers (i.e. farmers).
But in this case some manager probably thought that they could save money by not using beef and substituting horse meat instead because it’s cheaper (beef has been in relatively short supply and has thus been expensive to purchase). So they probably added it to minced meat and it has ended up in our burgers and lasagne. If that was the thinking process, and I think it’s very likely that it was, then what has happened is probably criminal.
So you see, because you wanted to save on your food bill, the supermarkets needed to stock ‘cheap’ products, so they leaned on their suppliers and this is what happened.
Of course, there’s another reason I’m annoyed about it, by substituting the horse meat those people effectively reduced the market for beef which means that perhaps I could and should have got more for my animals when they were sold. And don’t get me started on the distortion in the food production markets in the UK caused by the power of the supermarkets, of which this IS a prime example really, when you think about it.
Author: Richard Isaac
- Findus lasagne contained horsemeat (bbc.co.uk)