Horse meat burgers and other stuff….

So some burgers have been found to contain the DNA and possibly a good deal else of the revered animal we know and love as the horse.

I am not a vegetarian (though I eat a lot of vegetarian food) and I have to confess that I have eaten horse meat. A good horse steak in a good French restaurant in France some years back. I am sorry if this offends you, but the confession is going on: I enjoyed it. I’m not in the habit of eating horse because I am a little offended by the idea myself, but it is silly of me because I am happy to eat pork, beef, lamb, chicken and various sorts of game and strictly speaking they are all meat and either meat should be on the menu or off it.

However, I also have to confess that I do not eat burgers. At least not the ready-made cheap as chips grey and skinny variety of burgers which are being talked about right now.

If a portion of meat costs 12 pence to buy, then you can bet your last red cent or penny or whatever that the original cost of producing it was around 6 pence. And what can you get for 6 pence? Apparently you get a pile of indeterminate meats, fillers, and goo that is edible – just. I think Crocodile Dundee put it right in the film of the same name:

“You can eat it – it tastes like sh*t, but you can eat it”

I’ve already said I’m not in the habit of eating horse, nor do I eat rabbit. Can’t stand the smell of that cooking (smells like rancid cheese, in my opinion) and I kept a rabbit as a pet at one time. This is an emotional response which I cannot help. I dare say if I were hungry enough I’d probably eat both of them. I’ve not knowingly eaten dog or rat, but I’ve visited some odd countries where both of them might form part of the indigenous diet, so I suppose it is possible…..

But I am less worried about the horse part of the burger than the rest of the ingredients. ‘Mechanically reclaimed meat’ and ‘mechanically stripped meat’ are listed in the ingredients of many processed foods. Sometimes they go by their initials MRM and MSM because they are more anonymous. Both include the fats, sinew, and ‘grotty bits’ of the carcass, which are ground down with water into a kind of slurry and added to things like burgers and sausages and pies and sold as meat. ‘Meat’ (at least in Britain) in processed foods means the animal muscle with any connective tissue and fat appropriate to it. But the legal minimum content of ‘meat’ in our foods is surprisingly low.

A beef burger must contain 62% beef. An economy burger need only contain 47% meat. Other meat products can go in on top of that, including ‘mechanically recovered meat, or from any mammal or bird species fit for human consumption, tongue, heart head muscles (other than cheeks), carpus, tarsus (feet), and tail’. The quote is from a trading standards website. So meat from a pig and even a horse can go into your economy burger without contravening any law.

And if you thought that a burger containing only 47% beef was a horrible thought, then take a moment to examine the product known as a meat and potato pie (or a meat and anything else pie or pudding for that matter). They need only contain 7% meat.

Now forgive me, but the economy burger with only 47% beef has 53% of other stuff going on in there that at first glance I don’t know about. And any meat product that only has to contain 7% meat has a massive 93% of other stuff in it that we had better be reading the list of ingredients for.

All this week’s revelations are unlikely to tempt me to eat a burger – or any other variety of processed meat. I am not rich and I do understand that some people buy this food because it is, frankly, very cheap.

But even if it’s cheap, is this a good idea?

I don’t mean to preach, but personally, I’d rather have vegetarian food for half the week and some decent meat for the other half. Or just have one free-range happily kept chicken on a Sunday which I make last for three days and then make stock and soup with the carcass.

Home made, home-grown if at all possible, non-processed food, even if limited in quantity, must surely be better than this rubbish, sold as food, could ever be.


And how many scares do we have to have in this country to realise that the people who manufacture food are in it to make a profit? They are not there to make sure you and I get a healthy diet. They don’t care if we are fat or thin, sick or well, full of salt or sugar, just as long as we buy their product.

The only ones who can care about what goes into our food are we ourselves. Isn’t it time we did just that?



15 responses to “Horse meat burgers and other stuff….

  1. The thing that concerned me the most when I learned about this ‘scrare’ is that since the BSE crisis, systems were (supposedly) put in place to ensure full traceability from field to fridge, from pasture to plate. So has this traceabilty never included outside ingredients that have been dumped into the mix?
    That’s a bit like buying a Jaguar, driving it home then finding FIAT badges on 53% of the parts….
    No, something has to change (again) to ensure public safety and satisfaction.

    • As I understand it, there is still traceability – but only up to a point. Some of those ingredients come in from abroad, where their rules and regs don’t necessarily include traceability. So the best you’re going to get is ‘plus extra bits from Outer Mongolia’ or whatever.
      Even when it says on a packet of supermarket chicken ‘produced in the UK’ unless it is qualified by ‘reared’ or gives a farm assurance, even that packet can mean it was only packed here. The chicken could have come from anywhere.
      Our food regulations are a disgrace.

  2. I gave up red meat years ago. I only cook with ground turkey breast or skinless chicken breasts. Occasionally I’ll serve pork. I think I could go vegetarian if I wasn’t cooking for two boys who would no doubt protest that loudly. They’re not thrilled as it is to get ‘hamburgers’ and chili made from ground turkey breast. But I always tell them, if you want to prepare your own meal with whatever meat you choose, you’re welcome to it. Funny enough, they never take me up on my offer…

    • I do eat red meat – as you’ll have gathered from my post. (Had a yummy rib eye steak today in fact…) but not every day, partly because I couldn’t afford to eat the best quality every day.
      I use a lot of chicken and even Quorn, which I once called rising damp and swore I would never eat.
      Even the choice is between cheap meat (of whatever variety) and no meat, I choose the no meat.
      I don’t mean cheap cuts – I love to make stew from shin of beef in my slow cooker – but nasty reclaimed stuff is not for me.

  3. I don’t eat as much red meat as I used to and gave up burgers a while ago. Like you said though, they are cheap economy burgers. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t other stuff in there. I won’t be eating another burger any time soon 🙂

  4. Having worked for Customs, I never eat anything imported because I know how much insecticide is sprayed into shipping containers (yuck!) Luckily, I don’t eat ready made burgers, otherwise I would have puked when I read about the ‘other stuff’ that goes into them. I grind my meat/chicken and make my own burgers – I’m a real fuss-budget when it comes to food because I’m easily put off and HATE finding foreign objects on my plate (but that’s another story for another post) 😯

  5. As an ex serial traveler from the 70s & 80s:) I have undoubtedly eaten horse, dog and probably cat and rat – I never enquired too closley when sharing hospitality in some areas of the undeveloped world – one of the things ‘wrong’ with this story is the fact that the different kinds of meat are not specified – sometimes pork is used and not stated which ‘defiles’ some religions – reclaimed meat isn’t so bad in principle, if it is the equivelent to you or I boiling up a carcass stripping it down and useing the meat, liquor and jelly for future meals – its as you say the other ‘stuff’ that goes in.

    Many years ago, too long to count, when I discovered the appaling cruelty involved I moved my very carnivourous tendencies slightly side ways (friends of the time used to say dont get shipwrecked with moi – not only would she eat your body but might even kill you to do so:) -they joked of course, but I love meat, always have done) I have reduced my meat eating drastically because i only eat free range/organic/ local/traceability type meat now and it is expensive, I cannot afford this every day.

    One of the questions that needs to be asked is, if the price of a so called meat product or meat itself is cheap, cheap as chips then what kind of a life has that animal had – a chicken selling for a couple of quid has not been treated well, it is impossible – a meat product that has a long shelf life (meat goes off for goodness sake!) is filled with unknown gunk and preservatives in the same way as strawberries that do not go mouldy in a week are highly suspect – we need to shop with knowledge, common sense and compassion – put the purchase of the latest i-phone on hold and spend the true cost of food production.

    • Yes, I think reducing the meat content of our diet so that it only comes from traceable sources is the way to go.
      But I still don’t understand the shock that people seem to have when their extremely (should have written that in capitals!!) cheap meat is proven to be rather vile, a mixture of stuff that they wouldn’t necessarily choose to eat if they read a little on the side of the packet.
      Producers want to make as much profit as possible. It’s up to us to decide where to pitch our buying and take responsibility for what we eat.
      If people buy very very very cheaply, they will get very very cheap ingredients – and the mechanically reclaimed stuff includes a lot of things you and I would definitely not be putting in the pot.
      And I agree with you – eat less of it and know what it is you’re eating is definitely the way to go.

  6. Pingback: Horse meat burgers and other stuff…. « kirstenhwhyte

  7. Just wanted to let you know that I re-blogged this. I was just going to comment but I had to much to say!

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