The big British supermarket chain Tesco has apologized in full-page newspaper ads for a truth-in-labeling fiasco. Ten million hamburger patties were recalled when the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) announced that DNA testing showed that there was horse meat mixed in with the beef.
For some reason, this caused Tesco’s stock to drop sickeningly.
They are right that horse meat is wholesome and modestly popular. (It’s a very lean meat.) They are missing the point, probably for the fun of it. The basic principle is not “Don’t eat horse.” It’s “Tell people the truth about what they’re eating.”
There are people who would eat horse and not cow. Maybe not many, but they have feelings too, and if they buy a horse-burger, they don’t want beef in there.
There are many more who will eat meat from cattle but not from horses. They may feel that we humans have a deal with horses which includes riding, and friendship, but not eating each other. They may like horses better. Or they may just feel squeamish about eating something unfamiliar.
Tesco’s apology is a good one. They take full responsibility, and they say what they’re going to do to keep it from happening again.
Full disclosure: I haven’t eaten horse meat, to my knowledge. But it used to be in dog food, and I have fed it to dogs.
Once upon a time, in a place where horse meat was legally available, and government-inspected, my mischievous housemate Richard tried to dupe me into eating stew made with horse meat. Our household was vegetarian to save money, but Richard said he had missed beef so badly that he had bought some and made this delicious stew – want some? Come on, it’s good! Howard likes it! I’m proud of myself! Encourage me! Try a taste!
This was suspicious behavior in the thrifty and not particularly kitchen-minded Richard. Who had in the past mentioned his interest in trying the economical cuts available at the horse meat store and been voted down. And the stew smelled kind of like… dog food. (He really had gone for a cheaper cut.)
I turned it down, but the principle wasn’t refusing to eat horse, the principle was refusing to be tricked.
Yeah, back to these people who keep asking “What’s wrong with eating horse meat? Afraid you’ll eat your friend Flicka?” They’re hoping for a reaction. It’s like when the smoke alarm goes off while you’re cooking burgers, and you bat at it to make it shut up, and instead it falls shrilling into the frying pan, and the pit bull, overexcited by the combination of smell and sound, hurtles up onto the stove and bravely attacks the skillet, and everyone is screaming at you to do something – that’s the kind of reaction certain people expect to get when they taunt you with the possibility of eating horse meat.
Oh please. I’d eat horse meat, under the right conditions. Which include no one lying to me about what I’m eating. So I appreciate Tesco’s apology.