Feature

European Union: That’s not beef, that’s horsemeat

Horsemeat is passing for ground beef in supermarkets all over Europe.

Horsemeat is passing for ground beef in supermarkets all over Europe, said Hugh Carnegy in the Financial Times. It has been found in Findus’s frozen lasagna, Tesco’s frozen hamburgers, and even Burger King’s Whoppers in the U.K., France, Sweden, and beyond. The horsemeat makes its way to dinner plates through “a tortuous supply chain spanning several countries.” The Findus products, for example, came from a factory in Luxembourg that had been supplied with meat from a French company called Spanghero, which got it from a Cypriot trader. The trader had apparently subcontracted the order to another trader in the Netherlands, who was supplied by a Romanian abattoir that slaughtered horses as well as cows. The EU is investigating whether Italian and Polish mafia gangs may have orchestrated the unappetizing substitution, while the companies involved are “scrambling to shift the blame away from themselves.” British supermarket chain Tesco has promised to DNA-test all “beef” products on its shelves to make sure they come from cows. 

The British government claims there’s no health risk, but how does it know? asked Leo McKinstry in Express.co.uk. There’s apparently no oversight of this byzantine network of meat suppliers and no way to know if the meat contains phenylbutazone, a drug used on horses but “banned from the human food chain because it can lead to serious blood disorders.” And we face this risk because of the EU’s insistence on globalizing everything. Just as Britain’s social fabric has been rent by uncontrolled immigration, so has our food supply been “hit by foreign groups that are indifferent to the needs of the British public.” The fact is, we are “repulsed by the idea” of having horsemeat for supper. 

It’s a curious taboo, said Thierry de Cabarrus in Le Parisien. Here in France, horsemeat is still eaten. When I was a child, “my parents regularly visited the equine butcher so that I would grow big and strong.” Compared with beef, the meat is “richer in iron and lower in fat, and is still recommended for adolescents.” Yet for the British, the horse is not food, but a pet, a companion, even “the noblest conquest of man.” Actually, it’s we French who are the odd ones, said Ariane Kujawski in BFMTV.com (France). Nobody in civilized Europe ate horsemeat for centuries after the pope branded it “a pagan practice” of barbaric German tribes and banned it in 732. It was only legalized in France in 1866, because there was a shortage of meat to feed our growing cities. 

We’re not dealing here with French horsemeat, said Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail (U.K.). “There’s a world of difference between an animal bred especially for the table in France and a scrawny Romanian workhorse minced up at the end of its useful life.” It turns out the reason Romanian slaughterhouses are suddenly packed with horses instead of cows is because of a new law banning horses from Romanian roads. Farmers have been dumping their “surplus nags,” and they end up “in your local super-market freezer, bargain-basement section.” Bon appetít!

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