“If you buy cheap processed meat, you should expect other ingredients including horse meat.” I’ve heard these arguments on the World at One, in the office and on Twitter. The latter isn’t that surprising considering the penchant people have for being ridiculous on the social networking website. However the reaction to the horse meat scandal is one that has particularly struck me. There are many who are appalled but there is equally a group that believes we shouldn’t be shocked and actually you effectively deserve it if you buy cheap processed food.
This snobbish attitude especially grates on me and is why I’m writing this piece. I come from a family with great culinary ability including my late granddad on my mother’s side who was a popular chef. We appreciate good food and when my mother was in the UK, before we encountered financial difficulties, organic milk was always the milk of choice. Vegetables and fruit would be organic or from the local greengrocer and halal meat would be freshly bought from the halal butchers. But my mother was not one to be rigid. We also had Turkish hotdogs, many of which are processed meat and if they were ever to contain horse meat, those companies would be getting an earful from me.
I paint this picture to show my belief in buying a range of food products. I speak of those products which were plentiful at home yet there was a period for a couple of years when I was a student and my mum was unemployed where it was difficult to maintain that lifestyle. Of course because we are Muslim, we never bought those burgers and lasagnes that have now been found to contain horse meat but I am sure that if we weren’t Muslim, during our poorer moments, we would have done so. I sometimes buy Sainsbury’s 20p basic pancakes for work- they’re tasty and very cheap when you’re a young freelancer. Even when I start at the Telegraph, I’ll probably still get them every now and then. Why spend more when you can get something as equally nice for less?
It is absolutely offensive and ridiculous to claim that if you buy processed meat and/or very cheap products, you should expect horse meat. I expect some fish fingers to contain other elements of a fish including eyes but if it were to contain something else altogether, I would be annoyed. The horse meat issue is not just a scandal because of the kind of meat but the false labelling. For the sake of profit (therein lies many evils), rather than beef, an alternate cheap meat was used. We should be disgusted. Regardless of whether it is a burger or a lasagne, if it says it contains beef or chicken then it should be what it says. To say otherwise is a fraud.
I am glad the newspapers are giving this story the focus and depth of investigation it deserves. For anyone with special dietary requirements, or those who just want to make sure they eat beef, this is a national and international scandal that should shame anyone involved. Those who think there’s nothing wrong with it should also be ashamed at their lack of understand of those with less funds than them.