Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down

Why You’re Eating Horsemeat

15 February 2013 by Nicholas in Current Events

There is a wilful ignorance of how processed food is made. We don’t want to think about the reality or logistics of it, and our voluntary disconnect from our food is being challenged by the current reverberations of the presence of horse meat in the food chain.

How many times have you looked at a baked product or chocolate sweet and it has informed you that it may contain traces of nuts?

Although there are no nuts in the particular thing that you are seeking to eat, it has been made in an environment where nuts are used and there could be cross contamination. This is a simplistic example but illuminates how you can have pork or horse meat in a beef product.

Although we like to think that a meal is made in an analogous manner to how we would prepare one in a kitchen nothing could be further from the truth: everything is made on an industrial scale in ways to maximise profit. “Beef” will be bought in in huge quantities, ready minced. It will come from factories that also handle lamb, pork and (apparently) horse. A single beef burger (even if it is all beef) will contain DNA from upwards of a thousand animals, all processed and packaged in a meat plant before going to either a beef burger preparation area or plant.

Moreover, when you buy a product with a company’s or shop’s livery all over it it hasn’t been manufactured by that company. They source it from a factory that makes food for many different clients. What you are buying is a brand and a set of specifications that they try to make the manufacturer adhere to. There are going to be fewer makers than there are brands, and a bran is no guarantee of provenance. Just because you like a company’s pies doesn’t mean that their buns will come from the same manufacturer. In fact, they are highly likely not to.

This is how horse meat can enter the human food chain. It is symptomatic of ridiculous levels of naivety to actually be surprised when it does. The only way to know what is in the food you eat is to make it yourself an know exactly where all the ingredients come from. To make each meal separately and not do anything in bulk. And, as the majority of people are going to abdicate responsibility on this, we’re going to see mock indignation and hand wringing, some sop to the current outrage and the industrial preparation of food to carry on as normal.