As I write this, I see another horsemeat in food scandal is breaking. Two UK abattoirs had been raided by the police following concners raised by the Food Standards Agency and there are stories about horsemeat being passed off as beef. It reflects the other news stories of recent weeks about horsemeat in burgers, lasagne and so on. My first response on hearing about this issue was to express some degree of amazement that there was any significant amount of any meat in value burgers. My next response was to be surprised at people's horror at the idea of eating horse. Horsemeat is as healthy as beef and is eaten widely in Europe and elsewhere. It used to be eaten widely in Britain. After the Second World War, when the UK was still experiencing severe food rationing, horsemeat was eaten and people welcomed the opportunity to consume it. Since then it has largely fallen off the menu of the British, or so we all thought, until we discovered that many processed foods and ready made meals were found to contain it.
This is a fraud, not a health, issue. The question is, can you trust the label on the foods for sale in the supermarkets? I don't know whether there is a straightforward yes or no to that. However, if you definitely want to trust the meals you eat, make them yourself! And if you can grow the ingredients yourself, even better.
Our food supply system has become too much like the banking system: it is a vital part of the economy but it is dominated by too few producers and too few retailers. A few abattoirs or retail companies supply food that is too easily contaminated and is then sold in thousands of shops across not just Britain but Europe and beyond. One screw up and thousands, possibly millions of people are affected.
But we can't just blame the producers and retailers. Society has to accept some level of responsibility. Cheap food that can be consumed to excess or dumped as waste has come at an enormous price to society in terms of health and the environment. It may be great to have cheap food now but we end up paying more in the future to treat obesity or deal with the damage caused to the environment by over producing or disposing of excessive packaging or food waste.
So, as the horsemeat scandal ripples out through the food supply system, I wonder what those who sneer at my self-sufficiency lifestyle have to say as they chomp their way through their horse burgers or their equine lasagne.