In mid-January it was found that four major UK supermarkets have been stacking their shelves with beef burgers and other beef products contaminated with horse and pig DNA. By buying “value” products I think people enter a gentleman’s understanding with these supermarkets that things may not be exactly as they seem. However, discovering that some of these particular products contain horsemeat takes this gentleman’s agreement to a whole new level.

I have absolutely no aversion to horses, apart from the large ones that always seem to have a strange interest in me when I walk past them. I have never eaten one, although I am more than willing to try. The French highly recommend it, and it’s low in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol, which fits snuggly into my post-Christmas health kick. However, horsemeat is not something that regularly features on British dinner tables, which makes it both an unknown and an instant headline. A larger number of products tested also contained high levels of pig DNA, which seems to have cause less uproar, but what about people who abstain from eating any pork products because of their religion?

The most important question is how these products got contaminated in the first place. Did these major supermarket chains put the products on their shelves knowing full well that their burgers might well be high in Shergar? Or were they in the dark like the rest of us? This scandal could break the delicate trust we had in major chains and highlights the issues with buying ready-made, mass-produced food. It feels now like you can’t even trust what’s on the label of the products you buy.

The easiest solution is to not buy them. Instead, take this opportunity to visit the little guys. I always buy my meat from my local butcher. I find it highly rewarding to be able to talk one-to-one with someone who is passionate about the meat they sell, and it’s great to know (and trust) exactly what is in the product I am buying. And by buying cheaper cuts of meat, it doesn’t have to break the bank either.

And when it comes to burgers, why would you want to buy a ready-made who-knows-what’s-in-it-horse burger in the first place? By making your own, you will know EXACTLY what you’re eating. If you buy good-quality mince from your butcher, the possibilities for making the tasty burgers are endless – experiment with other flavours (not just horse and pig) by using different styles of mustards, spices, herbs and chillies, even beer is brilliant to behold on your first bite. To start you off we have some fantastic burger recipes on our website. This one is my particular favourite – the Parmesan cheese and tarragon really adds something to the recipe.

I like to add a dash of soy sauce to mine, along with some crunchy cornflakes, chopped chilli, parsley and grated Cheddar.  Beautiful burgers are the new cupcakes, so why not join in and cook something that supports your local butcher, gets your taste buds excited and sidesteps the possibility of eating horse.


british, herbs, meat

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  • spravka

    I enjoyed reading your articles

  • Справка

    This article is trully well-written.There are a lot of interesting things to take into consideration. well done!

  • leeGC

    Jamie, please don’t buy into the French chef’s line that horse is good for you. It is not. Regardless the fat or antioxidant levels, the truth of the matter is that virtually all horses in developed countries are NOT raised as food animals. People simply do not raise them so they can be slaughtered as meat. The ones that end up slaughtered are instead scooped up by the bottom feeder types who are looking for a way to make money. Think about how the bottom feeders are stealing copper and other metals anywhere they can in order to sell this “scrap” for a profit — this is what the typical slaughter horse is – an animal never intended for meat but just unlucky to have found himself at the slaughterhouse.

    You see in this day and age horses are sports, work and play partners and live many years in service to man. Consequently, to keep them happy, healthy, comfortable and sound, they are routinely given wormers, wound/hoof dressings, fly sprays, pain/inflammation relievers, steroids, antibiotics that are specifically banned for use in food animals. As a US horse owner over 20 years, I can tell you my horses get wormer, fly spray, bute (like horse aspirin, an extremely dangerous even lethal one for humans – just one dose bans the horse for life for use as a food animal), steroids and various wound/hoof dressings regularly. Every barn I’ve ever set foot in has owners just like me giving these remedies to their horses – it’s simply what you do to keep your animals comfy if you are responsible. Think about it: if your pet dog or cat is dragging his leg around in obvious pain, you do something, get to the vet and get some meds or whatever you need to help them recover and not be in so much pain. Same with horses!

    The reason they are given these banned/harmful to human drugs? Well, people who can afford to have horses these days treat them more like pets or like a child so they are afforded all the latest vet remedies to keep them healthy and comfortable while they live their lives as sports, work, companion partners. Back in the first half of the 20th century, many of these drugs were not available, so it was a simpler time and people didn’t use this stuff. Back then, perhaps horse meat was not so contaminated but those days are over. It is commonplace and normal to use it now and so we do. Same as we take aspirin for a twisted ankle or give the dog a worm treatment tablet. But we don’t eat human or canine flesh so it doesn’t matter if the drugs used are toxic for consumers or not. Same with the horses – they are just not food animals.

    Further these medications are specifically marketed for the horse as a non-food animal and that means those drugs are not tested on horses in terms of if they are safe for the horse to take and allow their meat be safe for human consumption. The labeling of these horse products all say “Not intended for use in horses intended for human consumption” and some even have the skull and crossbones warning symbol. Go to any tack/farm store and look at the remedies on the shelf – they all show that DANGER! warning on the label. In fact, it’s been proven by studies made by leading teaching vets and medical doctors that race horses in the US (and Canada, UK, etc.) are given well over 100 different drugs that are retained in the flesh making the horses toxic, carcinogenic, even lethal for human consumption.

    Here in the US, pet food companies no longer use horse because the toxicity kills certain susceptible dog breeds, dropping them like flies. Even Campbell’s soup company quit using horse manure to grow its mushrooms for the classic product, their mushroom soup, decades ago because the toxicity in the manure was transferring to the mushrooms! Some of these drugs are retained forever in the horse’s flesh and this would make the “food” (taken from non-food animals) poisonous to humans by way of cumulative effect. Eat it once, you might be ok, keep eating it (whether you know it or not as per this entire horse meat scandal) and when you get liver failure or cancer a few years down the road, how will know you know exactly what caused it? Those French chefs are definitely doing themselves no favors by CHOOSING to eat this is toxic stuff, more like ensuring a bitter end to their health. And I understand it can be extremely lethal for children, elderly and immune compromised with very little of it consumed.

    It all comes down to whether one thinks humans should be eating animals that are basically discarded pets/companions, animals that were never intended as food and that were not raised under the food animal safety protocols and laws in place that protect consumers. That’s the difference. This is a very horrific issue and the people, the media need to hear from leaders in the “eating healthy” movement, people like you, who espouse eating more healthfully that eating horse is NOT ok for human health, that it is in fact very dangerous. We are fighting like hell here in the US to try to pass laws to finally stop the slaughter and export for slaughter of our US horses because we KNOW IT’S TOXIC, DANGEROUS stuff that should never been eaten by any human. But more people need to understand the entire issue, the real danger, not just the “revulsion” factor of eating a different species — this is so much more complex than that.

    If you want add’l info, links to more detail on this, please email me and I’ll send you lots of references. Too many to list here, but I will leave one for your readers. This one comes from the Vets for Equine Welfare, an alliance of leading US & Canadian vets who are against horse slaughter not only for humane issues (and there are some which I didn’t address) but also for the very real, very serious human health and safety issues. The page explains why a non-food animal treated with meds is so unsafe for human consumption and there are links to abbreviated lists of some of the most dangerous drugs found in horse meat.