A Bute of a Problem?

I was wondering whether to join in the ‘horse meat masquerading as beef’ debate. After all it seems to be on every other news item as, one by one, the food giants discover that, yes, some of their products contain meat ‘other than that described on the box’.

Just yesterday Aldi joined Findus in admitting some of its meat products contained up to 100% horse meat. (image: twitter @pukkapixels)

Ok, Ok! There’s enough comment around I thought – I’ll not blog about it… but listening to a discussion on the radio I found myself talking to the radio (usual occurrence I’m afraid) saying ‘but that’s not the point!’  or ‘but that’s not the REAL problem!’ as speaker after speaker brought up their concerns about the situation.

They said things like – ‘It s terrible because I would never eat horse meat normally – I don’t think of horses as food’

or ‘I love horses and they shouldn’t be eaten. Would you eat your dog or your cat?’

or ‘I wouldn’t mind if it had been labelled as horse – at least you then had a choice.’

or ‘What is the problem? The French eat horse meat – you can buy it in the supermarket there.’

or  ‘I remember when horse meat was sold in the UK (this from elderly people) Nothing wrong with it!’

Even the presenters were mostly concerned that people thought they were eating beef, when they were actually eating horse.

True, you might not want to eat horse meat if  it broke your personal food taboo, as others would not eat dog or cat – but ultimately it would not kill you.  (The same goes for the traces of pork found in the halal foods – deeply distressing but not actually life-threatening)

What worries me is the lack of traceability, because it is horse rather than beef, and the possible contamination of the product by phenylbutazone also known as Bute*.   And moreover – if these ‘suppliers’ have no qualms about providing horse when they were supposed to supply beef – what other basic food hygiene and food safety rules are they ignoring?                *(yes , sorry – dreadful pun in my title – more of which later)

Bute (phenylbutazone) is a chemical that has been found to be seriously harmful to humans and so is banned for human use – yet it is still used to treat horses and remains in the meat. The independent veterinary committee reported that they were finding a rate of about 5% of the sample of horses slaughtered in the UK (for export as meat for human consumption) tested positive for bute. It’s banned (in horses for food use), so the number of non-compliant samples should be zero. This is in the UK!  Most of the horse meat that has found its way into the ‘beef’ products has come from other countries, including France and Romania – what might the percentage of bute treated horses discovered be,  if these were sampled?

And the lack of traceability – there’s a good reason we have saddled (no pun intended – this time) our farmers with a vast amount of bureaucracy concerning their livestock – it is so we know what it is and where it comes from and what it has had in form of treatment. I know from running a small-holding what enormously time consuming and costly procedures are in place to make sure that every stage of an animal’s life is recorded. The tags, the movement records, the administration of any medicines ( wormers etc)  All this our farmers have to go through to make sure the meat for sale is safe and traceable. Beef, lamb, pork, goat. All of which adds to the cost of the meat – but at least you do know where it has come from and what is in it.

What is the answer? Does it mean never buying ready-made meat-based foods? What about minced meats or sausages? Perhaps, if it doesn’t look like a chunk of meat you can identify (ie if it’s minced up) buy local – where you know where the meat has come from. At least buy meat from British, born, reared and slaughtered sources, where they are more likely to be covered by full traceability and UK welfare standards.

It’s so Punny – the way we react!

The other thing that has struck me about this latest food scare is the speed at which the British public turned ‘the horse meat scandal’ into a great excuse for puns and fun.

There was a pantomime horse wandering round a Tescos in Wales calling for its mother… an individual horse-headed man politely asking where the burgers were at another … there were whole pages of puns in some newspapers and all over twitter.

To end this serious post on a lighter note – I quite liked this – it’s a round up of the first wave of puns – by a charming pair of Scottish sock puppets – I hope it makes you smile too.

How have you been affected by this latest food scare? 

Are you surprised?  What do you think the problem REALLY is with food production?

Is it all a plot by vegetarians to take over the world? 🙂 

Have you any really funny horse/beef puns to share?

I love to hear from you – join the conversation!

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