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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?