Help me understand the horse meat drama

Every week I see a new article about some country detecting horse in its meat supply. The parties in question then react as though they were in the middle of a mad cow epidemic. What is the problem here?

Are they complaining that the beef was mis-labeled? Or is it that horses are “Pretty” and therefore “Not Food.”

I’m not trying to be sarcastic. I genuinely do not understand the problem.

Neither do I . I’m a foreigner living in Japan . Horse sashimi is a delicacy and its delicious .

I suspect it is both a concern over mislabeling and an ick factor that horse is not a typical food species in that culture.

That horse meat is being found so widely in so many countries raises the prospect that this may not be an isolated incident at one particular processing plant but could be a widespread practice.

The media want something to froth about. That’s it.

The public isn’t concerned about having eaten horse. We’re concerned that quality control processes are broken enough to let this happen, but it’s not any kind of ick factor thing.

The problem is not that horses aren’t tasty, it’s that to adulterate something relatively cheap such as ground beef and still make a profit you’d have to use the absolutely cheapest horse meat on the market, and depending on its history the quality might not even be high enough to qualify for pet food due to additives and whatnot. And once you’re heading down that road anyways, who knows what else you’d be willing to put in food to make a buck.

Part of it is that horses, especially in the US and other countries, can be given a whole ton of different drugs that are not approved for use in meat intended for human consumption.

The other part is that once you get meat that isn’t what it says it is, that means somewhere along the chain of handling, something went very very wrong. That should lead you to question the safety, quality, and indeed, the species of meat that you’re eating.

Both. The mislabeling is just flat-out fraud, and any time fraud is revealed people tend to wonder what other kind of shenanigans are going on that they simply don’t know about yet. People tend to get antsy at the notion of the people who supply their food engaging in unknown shenanigans, ya know? When you add in the fact that this fraud involved tricking people into eating a species they consider a companion rather than a food source…well, think how you’d feel if you found out your favorite barbecue place was mixing a little human into the pulled pork.

Well, you would say that :).

In all seriousness, I think there is a bit of fuss from horse-lovers but as has been said, it’s mainly that if something is labelled as 100% beef, that is what it should be, not any old rubbish that the producer/packager decides to throw in to make it up to weight.

Ok, I’m in France (as an American who’s previously lived in the UK for almost a decade). They’ve pulled the affected meals off the market here, too. The difference is, horse meat is perfectly acceptable here. There’s a whole horse section in the supermarket. It isn’t a case of too pretty to eat.

So what’s the big deal?

Labeling and a dirty chain of supply, are at the top of that list.

People want to read a package and know, beyond any doubt, what’s in that package. (Unless you’re like me and play Chinese grocery roulette on a regular basis). Why do we want to know what’s in there? We don’t like surprises. Some of us have religious reasons for this: we want to see a label that says ‘halal’ or ‘kosher’ and believe that. Otherwise, eating becomes extremely difficult. No one, not even the French, wants to have to think about their food that much. Also, we’re paying for beef. Everyone wants what they’ve paid for. If you’ve paid for ‘Black Angus’, you do not want Bessie, the run-down-dairy-cow, let alone Shergar.

Then there’s the supply chain. Here, there are horse farms that raise horses for meat and abattoirs that slaughter horses for human consumption. In some places, your mind might automatically go to all the old horses sent to be made into dog food. I’m sure that happens here, horses into dog food, but we’ve been assured that these supply lines are different. You, the human, will not be getting the broken-down, veterinary drug-laden horses. You will be getting the equivalent of that Black Angus, a happy horse raised on a farm somewhere, for that express end. The meat looks good in the store, bright red and incredibly lean. It actually doesn’t show up in ready meals- if it does, I haven’t seen it. There just isn’t that much demand. But it’s available and it’s eaten.

Now, instead of the expressly reared horse, you’ve got horse entering the chain that has been shuffled about so many times that it looks as if it’s provenance is being intentionally lost. And it’s testing positive for drugs that shouldn’t be in things meant for human consumption. When I can go to a major supermarket and tell you the name of the farmer that raised the rabbit I’m buying, that kind of obfuscation is upsetting.

Not the same at all. If you have a moral objection to eating animals, then the same objection should apply to all animals equally, and not to differentiate the “cute” animals from the “food” animals. Horses are not people, they are animals… even though they usually fall into the “cute” category.

The way I see it, it’s not that different from eating a can of tuna. Yeah, it says “Tuna” on the can and 95% of it probably is… but I know darn well there are some dolphins and sea turtles in there, too. And I eat it anyway.

But, all of the above points about sloppy controls and horse medications are good points.

Is it possible to have some sort of allergy (or other physical reaction) to horse meat but not to beef?

Hey, protein is protein…but it is labelled “beef”-that is what I expect it is. If it is something else, it should be labelled so. It is called “honesty”.
Now, if I can buy up diseased and possibly dangerous to consume horse, sell it as beef (and get away with it), then we have a problem.

I find the fuss mildly comical, because people are (generally) so incurious as to what’s in their food most of the time.

Another great username/post combo!

Well, they are usually incurious because they put some trust on regulating agencies to make sure that what is labeled as “beef” is actually beef and has passed the appropriate inspections. This is not just some food-borne bacteria that contaminated the pipelines, this was somewhat bigger than that.

People usually don’t live in a “they’re out to get me, I cannot trust anyone” mentality. Well, some do, but they’re… special.

Correct. It isn’t about the horse, it is about unregulated pollution of the food chain. I’m happy to eat horse burger so long that it is labelled as such and has entered the food chain through a verified and tested route.

Eating horse sold off the back of a lorry and labelled as beef - not so much.

The “Oh, eating horse is no big deal” argument misses the point entirely; it could have been chicken or pork or duck and you’d still have the same safety problem, not to mention the problem of being cheated. If I pay for beef, I want beef; not horse, not chicken, just beef.

Here’s the thing; they could have been. What if whoever decided to slip in cheap horse meat had decided to slip in cheap (as in supposed-to-be-destroyed) infected beef instead? Or who knows what else; a compromised supply chain means you have no idea what gruesome stuff will get slipped in to save a buck. I recall in one of the other threads on this someone jokingly mentioning that with the involvement of Romanian organized crime, maybe they’d decided to use it to dispose of bodies…

Here’s a somewhat similar American problem - and who knows, it’s probably happening elsewhere too - widespread substitutions of more expensive fish in sushi restaurants and (to a lesser extent) grocery stores. You could be getting something too high in mercury (if you’re a pregnant woman), too endangered for your liking (if you’re trying to eat sustainably), something that gives you serious digestive issues, or just way overpriced for the cheap piece of fish it actually is. For instance, only 7 of the 120 samples of red snapper that they DNA-tested were the real thing.

Seems like its possible, but rare. Not all proteins from different animals are exactly the same, and some may trigger reactions where others will not.

It’s also possible to be allergic to alpha galactose, which will leave you unable to eat red meat regardless of which specific animal it’s from.

I have a friend who is allergic to pork but not any other meats. At least any that are commonly eaten in the US. I doubt she’s ever eaten horse.

I was going to post the OP’s exact same question when I got into work today. Ignorance fought!