Beefing about burgers

COMMENT: Beefing about burgers

When it comes to cheap meat products, it’s probably best if you don’t know what you’re getting. When the name of the game is to use up all the ‘nasty bits’ that are perfectly edible but not necessarily terribly attractive, ignorance is bliss.

In recent weeks, however, that ignorance has been rudely interrupted by the discovery of pork and horse meat in beef products, writes Rob Lyons of…

…No doubt the scandal will grow as more food products are tested… The whole affair will also be a kick in the proverbial rump for food sellers who may have become complacent about the products they were selling and who now have reputations to restore. That said, a little perspective may be in order.

For most people, who are sensible enough to realise that cheap burgers are unlikely to be made from the finest steak, the fact that Tesco Extra Value Burgers actually contain 63 per cent beef may be the biggest shock of all. (The other ingredients are mostly onions, a bit of flour, soya protein and seasoning. Not haute cuisine, but perfectly nutritious.)

What have we learned? Well, it turns out that horse meat is cheaper than beef. It’s also perfectly fine to eat – there’s no evidence of anyone being made ill in this whole affair – and highly prized in some countries. Indeed, given the quality of horse meat, perhaps companies should start selling horse burgers as a low-cost, nutritious alternative to beef.

On the other hand, food suppliers should know what’s going into their products and it is unacceptable that these products were adulterated with ingredients that were not on the label. It is quite right to demand high standards. There should be no excuses that these were, in many cases, ‘only’ budget or fast-food products.

What we cannot conclude, however, is that this is an indictment of our modern food system, as some have tried to claim. Unless you actually grow your own food, you can never know for certain where your food comes from. The bigger the scale of the industry concerned, and the longer the supply chains, the greater the opportunity for someone along the line to reduce the quality of the meat or, in this extreme case, to introduce another meat altogether.

What is remarkable – and reassuring – is that food standards are maintained to such a high degree that the occasional story like this one can still make national news….. Read the full article