Enjoying a frosty drive to school this morning, we were shocked by the news on Classic FM. Tesco selling beef burgers made of horse meat.I don’t quite know why I was shocked, as the alleged crimes of Tesco appear legion. Selling dairy farmers short, oppressing Thai shopkeepers and downgrading its Toothill Express to a One Stop spring to mind.
But horsemeat in its burgers? I quickly covered Little J’s ears to avoid meltdown at lunchtime. (We’re still at the My Little Pony stage, having hastily, and delicately, negotiated the relationship between Peppa Pig, the piglets in our neighbour’s field and bacon.)
To be fair, Tesco weren’t the only culprits. According to the tests carried out by the Irish Food Safety Authority, Lidl and Aldi burgers also contained evidence of horse DNA. However, the Tesco Everyday Value burger meat content was 29% horse.
OK, given that the burger only has 63% meat content to start with, that probably doesn’t even amount to an inch of fetlock. It made me feel decidedly queasy. But why?
First, I don’t like the idea of eating of eating horse. Despite my father-in-law’s protestations that horse meat is a delicacy on the continent, I’m a horse-lover. I’m on first name terms with a lot of them. I’d as soon eat dog or next door’s kitten, which plays frisbee with the garden sparrows, as tuck into Snowy or Trigger.
Secondly, it’s a welfare issue. Intellectually and ethically, I suspect there’s not much distinction between eating a horse and eating a cow. But we should care enough to know the difference.
I’m a failed vegetarian and a could-do-better supporter of local produce. To me, however, this revelation is the flip side of horses being shipped live across Europe for slaughter. There may be less suffering involved. (Presumably it’s a quicker journey from field to the meat factory in North Yorkshire than being freighted to Brussels or Milan). But there’s such a lack of traceability and accountability, we’ll never know.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I care about what I eat. And I care about what my son eats. What’s the point of scouring labels if you can’t believe what’s written on them anyway? Sure, every little helps. But don’t insult us
So today, after drop off, I walked past the piglets in the field. (Oblivious to their fate, they were more concerned about the frozen mud). Then I took a detour to the local butcher (the excellent Michael Hart) for some real beef mince and sweet chilli sauce. Tonight we are giving the thumbs down to Tesco. And at least I’ll have the luxury of feeling smug when J complains about the green bits in his burger.
For those of you who want an easier life, Simply M & S burgers passed the horse and porcine tests. And, no, I’m not on commission.