Horse meat scandal has sentimental underpinnings

Horses and cows are both made of meat. Image

Horses and cows are both made of meat. Image: Valerie Everett/Flickr/CC BY-SA

Several reports of horse meat in products sold as beef has sparked a red hot controversy in the European Union. The practice is fraud, as food packagers try to cut corners with the less-expensive horse flesh. The problem no doubt needs to be addressed. But is the controversy so heated simply because of consumer duping?

Horse meat where cow meat should be

Earlier this month, DNA tests proved that the so-called “beef” in European-sold Findus brand lasagne was actually 100 percent horse meat. That sparked an investigation into all the beef products sold in Europe. It is even now being learned how wide-spread the problem is in the industry.

It was reported on February 19 that horse meat was included in at least some packages of Buitoni ravioli, tortellini and lasagna meals sold in the EU.

Nestlé swimming in hot water

Nestlé, which makes the Buitoni line, pulled the meals from European shelves faster than you can say “mad cow.” But this wasn’t about cows or deadly impurities.

It was the second blow for the company in a week, which also had to pull 500,000 packages of Lean Cuisine mushroom ravioli from U.S. stores for the much-more-worrisome presence of glass shards in the meals.

Last year, Nestlé’s CEO, Paul Bulcke, said his company would not fall victim to the rising horse meat problem because of “very stringent and very disciplined policies” with its suppliers. He also made a point that its products cost a little more because of that eye on quality, and you get what you pay for. Oops.

Others riding horse gravy train

Last month, Burger King took similar heat in the EU for horse meat found in patties coming from an Irish supplier.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest box retailer, likewise got into trouble when Asda, its UK branch, sold jars of beef bolognese that, you guessed it, had some traces of horsie in the mix.

And these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. However, were are talking about horse meat, which people have been consuming since the beginning of time, not a tainted commodity that will harm the health of its customers. I have eaten horse meat on more than one occasion and found it not just edible, but quite tasty.

Now, I am not saying the practice isn’t despicable, dishonest and worthy of prosecution. But corporations are often found to be cheating their customers in the name of profits. No surprise or shock there. So why is it that people in Europe are so enraged over this particular scandal? Frankly, I’d rather see my burger stretched with horse meat than with so-called “pink slime,” which is a legal practice.

The sacred steed

Could it be because it is My Little Pony and Trigger and My Friend Flicka being devoured instead of Bessie, Elsie or Mrs. O’Leary’s cow? We have sentimental and cultural attachments to the horse that we do not have for its bovine cousin. Hindu consumers probably would have the opposite take on the matter.

As I see it, a cow in no less sacred than a horse. All life is important. However, if I am willing to sanction the slaughter of beef cows so that I can have steaks and burgers, it would be hypocritical to say it is immoral to do the same with another hoofed, four legged beast, even if little girls love them and cowboys ride them.


Marietta daily Journal

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