Only Fools Eat HorsesPosted: February 10, 2013
It’s been a couple of weeks now since we learned that our food is not always as it seems. We’ve been duped, lied to and tricked into eating horses. It’s getting worse. The first confessions of “oh, there might be a teeny tiny percentage of horse in that beef” has now escalated to “yep, it’s completely 100% horse”. I noticed a few bare shelves at our local supermarket this weekend, the food completely withdrawn from sale. There are fears over veterinary drugs which may be in the horse meat and capable of making humans ill. We’ve been completely had. I don’t see how companies such as Lidl, Aldi, Findus and others can really come back from this and gain the UK’s trust again. The most shocking thing for me is where this meat actually comes from. A dirt-cheap Findus ‘beef’ lasagne contains meat slaughtered and squished in France, then shipped here to be mushed up and spread between sheets of flacid pasta and frozen in a cardboard box (mmm). Can we blame the French? Our neighbours who so strongly reacted to the mad cow disease episode by banning everything we exported. It seems they’ve got their own back by keeping their beef all to themselves and sticking some horses on the Calais to Dover ferry.
But is it their fault? Or is our meat from even further away? Today it transpires that the meat in our Findus lasagne is all the way from….Romania….(see BBC article), with their own government now launching an enquiry. I find this pretty scary. That the meat can come all the way from there and be so cheap, can we really be surprised that standards have slipped so far? Were there ever any standards at all? I put away enough Findus crispy pancakes in the ’80s to be a bit concerned about this.
It’s pretty bad form as a business to receive an order for beef and despatch horse instead. I wonder if Findus/Lidl/Aldi knew all along and in an effort to keep costs down they just went with it? But it’s time to look within too, if the UK consumer wasn’t eating this stuff then it simply wouldn’t exist. Are you really and truly surprised that a Tesco Everyday Value frozen burger isn’t quite what it seems? We don’t deserve to be lied to, of course not, but take some responsibility perhaps?
I’ve always tried to feed my daughter decent food which I’ve made from scratch. I would feel sick to give her something so cheap and nasty. She adores sausages so I buy them from the local butcher, not from Lidl. And I know that there are people out there who think I’m being a bit precious or snobby to do that. I’m a stay-at-home Mum, of course I’ve got the time to stand around in my Cath Kidston apron, baking bread, crocheting and crafting homemade meals. It’s not that at all. I know for a fact that in the time it takes to heat up some frozen chicken nuggets (which are probably made of swan beaks anyway), I can chop up a chicken breast and coat it in crumbs, pan fry and serve with tasty dippy ketchup (please tell me that this is still made using tomatoes and not the blood of Romanian unicorns?). Same applies to fish fingers. And it doesn’t have to be expensive to cook this way. I find by planning ahead, ordering my weekly shop online and cooking in batches, I needn’t spend a fortune. And it’s easy to freeze leftovers for toddler lunches. It’s just all down to how much you actually care about what you and your family eat.
I know that this all sounds a bit Jamie Oliver, a crusade against the Turkey Twizzler. I’m not suggesting we all become vegetarian either. Unless you choose to, your call. I tried for a couple of weeks as a teenager (I thought it’d make me cool. Nothing would have made me cool). My Mum rather cleverly knew that I wouldn’t last and so served up exactly the same meals for me, just minus the meat. So there I was, staring at a plate of potato and cabbage (covered in beef gravy. See? I was a rubbish veggie). It wasn’t long before I crawled on my hands and knees into the kitchen, begging for a slice of silverside. That said, I know some very happy veggies and pescatarians and the thing we all have in common is just caring about what we eat.
Now here’s a really wacky thought. In days of old, there were these magical places that you could go, not far from your house, where you could order lovely meaty products and get cooking advice and a bit of a chat. These places were killed by the big supermarkets. Yes, your local butcher. We are lucky that we have one just 5 minutes walk away and they are brilliant. And we buy most of our meat from there. Do you have one nearby? No? Then move house, it’s the only way. The meat is traceable, fresh and probably actually the species that you asked for. No asking for lamb and getting llama there. Buy locally, buy food that doesn’t require a post-mortem to find out what the hell it actually was. Buy *seasonal stuff and you’ll get the best quality minus the thousands of food miles too (*I confess that I do love avocados to the point of demanding them 12 months of the year, so I’m a bit guilty too).
Our local butcher not only dispenses great food but also dating advice. On my very first visit there, I told the butcher that I wanted to cook a Beef Wellington for my boyfriend, to celebrate moving into our new home. I needed some advice on the beef and how much to buy. His response? “Depends. Do you want him to dump you or to marry you?”. I took this advice, bought a huge fillet and got the diamond engagement ring shortly after. See? You don’t get that with your box of frozen horse, do you?