Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Awkward burgers

Well, we've all had our fun, but I wonder when the first writs will appear over the unexpected ingredients of the now notorious burgers.

The horse-meat contamination is bad enough - not that I have a problem with people eating horses per se; I just think it's vitally important that consumers can trust the information on food labels to be entirely accurate - but it's the pig DNA in 23 out of 27 burgers (and 21 out of 31 beef products) that is likely to have the more serious consequences.

Of course, if strict kosher or halal is your thing, you're hardly likely to be popping down to Tescos for a box of value burgers, or tucking into an Iceland steak pie.

But the way people have been jumping through hoops recently to avoid offending religious sensibilities might well encourage less scrupulous members of some religious groups to seek legal redress for being 'tricked' into consuming forbidden foodstuff - and lead the authorities into taking them seriously.

Meanwhile, it's worth remembering that one of the catalysts for the Indian Rebellion of 1857 is said to be a rumour that the new rifle cartridges (which the sepoys had to tear open with their teeth) were greased with pork and beef fat, and that this had been done with the tacit approval of a cynical government wanting to break down their religious and tribal loyalties.

In the hands of would-be rabble-rousers, news like this could be a worryingly powerful tool.


  1. This is interesting for me as I'm about to go into town and buy ... wait for it ... burgers. Think I'll buy diced beef instead.

  2. So that's where Shergar got to.

  3. JH, I suppose it is covered by the axiom that you should not eat anything your grandmother would not recognize as food.

    (Personally, I don't apply that one, since my grandmother would invariably dismiss anything as exotic as coffee or yoghurt as 'nasty foreign muck'.)

    Demetrius, less Shergar than scrubby pony, I'd suspect; after all, I can't see those colourful folk whose horses regularly run loose on York's ring road* paying the full whack for disposal when the things die.

    The blame will conveniently be shifted abroad, but I'm guessing that some slaughterhouses might have back doors...

    *JuliaM has plenty of examples

  4. Anyone who's eaten any imported sausage or salami will have eaten horse meat, as will anyone who has spent any time at all in France, especially in cheap hotels or youth hostels.

    The stuff is perfectly tasty and not as fatty as some meats.

    Lot of fuss about nothing.

  5. Stick to chops. A horse chop is pretty difficult to miss.

  6. WY, I wonder whether some of this can be laid at Anna Sewell's door; 'Black Beauty' is one of the best-selling books of all time, even before TV adaptations are taken into consideration, and, as far as I know, has no continental equivalent.

    Equestrianism is very popular in France but they don't tend to regard the horses they ride with the same degree of sentimentality. One theory claims that it has much to do with the stables of aristocrats being emptied to feed the poor during the Revolution, making it almost a socialist virtue to eat horses rather than regard them with affection.

    AKH, good point, and perhaps one worth bearing in mind whatever the meat; after all, even without the addition of Dobbin, 100% beef doesn't mean that it isn't tubes and wriggly bits.

  7. Well, you could blame Anna Sewell, but the 'Guardian' has a more reliable bogeyman, as always:

    "Yet since prehistoric tribes carved them flying across the chalk landscape, Britons have loved horses – a reflection of the curious national capacity to romanticise symbols of power and privilege. "

    Well, when all you have is a hammer...

  8. Julia, well spotted; even by the guardian's axe-grinding standards that's a good one!