Horseshit

I should be asleep. I have to be up at 6 am tomorrow (does that time of day even exist?) because I have drawn morning shift. I should also not be finishing off this last half bottle but I’ll have all afternoon to get another one. Alarms are set, including the loudest one set at the far side of the room so I have to get out of bed to reach it. Heating is also set because if it’s freezing I know I’ll just get back into bed.

Anyway, I was thinking about this horse hooey we’re hearing about lately. Horse meat is safe to eat, it’s just that in the UK we don’t eat much of it. In China they eat dog. I tried it when I was there. It’s not bad, it’s a strong flavour but it’s okay in slices. When they brought out a roasted small dog with its little legs in the air, I admit I balked a bit, but then they had already tried to horrify us with pig stomach lining and other delicacies. We beat them though. I ate a raw garlic clove and another of us described what went into haggis. Bunch of softies, those Chinese. It’s not true that they’ll eat anything.

The issue with the horse meat isn’t that it’s unsafe. When I visited Marseilles (work again, I haven’t been far on holiday, it’s always work) I had enough O-level French to understand what ‘steak cheval’ meant. It’s on every menu. It’s herbivore meat, it’s lean and it’s perfectly safe to eat. As long as it’s properly done. In the UK, we don’t generally eat horse, so vets can pump sick ones full of drugs that they wouldn’t be able to use on cows or sheep. That’s the only risk, but it shouldn’t apply in countries where horse is a standard menu item. The countries the meat came from, in fact.

The real issue is that it was labelled ‘beef’. If people buy something labelled ‘beef’ they expect it to contain beef. If the Findus lasagne was labelled ‘horse’ it would not have stopped me eating it. But I do like to know what I’m buying. Tesco value brands are so cheap that I wouldn’t care if it was made of cat and hamster. Or even of hamsters fed on cat meat. It’s nondescript, dull, plain, barely tasteable but cheap. As long as what’s in it is safe to eat, I don’t care.

Now the whole thing has been blown into a ‘no safe level of meat’ campaign which looks very much like an attempt to denormalise meat-eating. Since smoking has been thoroughly hammered and drinking is well on the way to joining it through the same techniques, it must now be time to hit the meat-eaters and extol the virtues of a Paul McCartney diet. Great musician, I’d take advice on playing any instrument from the man, but he has no qualification as a dietician and I don’t even listen to people who have.

So now there is horse meat in everything. I’ll eat it. If they weren’t so fast I’d eat them raw. Shergarburger, anyone?

As a student, sharing with (among others) an imaginative Chinese guy with an Esher accent, I tried, and learned to cook, many things. Pig’s head brawn (made in rabbit-shaped jelly moulds). You could get a pig’s head for about 50p in those days. The whole thing, intact. It made a good slab of brawn and the eyes stuck to whatever you threw them at, which was sick but fun.

Duck’s feet. He found some and cooked them up. Bizarre. Shark steaks. Crab (starting from a live one). It helped that, at the time, Cardiff Indoor Market was a wild and pretty much regulation-free place. You could get anything in there. One day the cackling Chinaman came home with a cow’s head. He had a pint glass full of brain. “Look,” he said. “A pint of Brains”. (for the non-UK, ‘Brain’s’ is Cardiff’s local beer). Cow brain has little taste and has a texture like scrambled egg. You’re probably not allowed to eat it any more.

We once had squid, which did involve spending most of the following day getting the suckers off the doors and walls. If there hadn’t been vodka involved in the cooking process we’d have saved a lot of time.

Hearts are very filling, being solid muscle. With Valentine’s day approaching, you might want to woo your sweetheart with a special meal of stuffed lamb’s heart, or just send her one in the post with a note ‘I give you my heart’. That’s guaranteed to make her swoon.

The one thing we never could get was horse. If it had been available and cheap, we’d have had it for sure.

Horsemeat holds no fears for anyone. I’ll bet there are a lot of British tourists who have visited France and opted for ‘steak cheval’ because it was cheaper and they thought they were getting a cheap beef steak. None have suffered any ill effects. It’s just meat. Herbivore meat.

Incidentally, vegetarians and especially vegans are made of the same stuff.

Food for thought…

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39 thoughts on “Horseshit

  1. “Vegans are made of the same stuff. Food for thought…”

    I got into a bit of a vegan tiff last week over on http://www.euractiv.com/cap/swedes-want-tax-meat-combat-gree-news-517247#comment-10263

    Two thoughts at the moment, one kind of pro-omnivore, one somewhat anti-omnivore, and one just somewhat strange….

    The pro-omnivore: If you think about it, and if you feel an animal’s life has some value, then just think of all the billions of animals that have been born and have lived reasonably long lives that were probably healthier than in nature simply because humans have bred them, raised them, and cared for them before killing and eating them.

    The anti-omnivore, referring to the quote from you about vegans: If you think about it, omnivores are a helluva lot closer to being cannibals than they are to being vegans. Given that, in some societies at least, cannibals are regarded as possessing a lower social standard than even smokers, that should give one a few further thought tidbits.

    The strange: If I get my next book done and out as planned by the end of the summer, you’ll be treated to a chapter titled “The Giblets” — which will have content disturbingly similar in some ways to this particular blog entry.

    :>
    MJM

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    • It is quite fascinating how people who think that they are losing the argument will extrapolate and twist their opponents arguments in the most weird and wonderful ways: you, it would appear, have an insatiable appetite for flesh and blood. Dracula would look on you with envy. Mind you, anyone who concludes an argument with, “end of story,” is a bit sad.

      I would love to be with a vegan on a deserted island, with nothing but grass, coconuts and kangaroos to eat. I suspect that the vegan would soon cease to be, even if there was no decline in the human population.

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    • Well, I would say an animal’s life has value. Just – not as much as mine. The animal would inevitably hold the opposite opinion. That’s why I don’t eat tigers. They’d win.

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  2. I have no principled objection to eating horse, although I would prefer not to – too sweet and purplish for my tastes – but that isn’t the problem. The problem is that these supermarkets and processed food merchants that we trust to give us what we read on the packet HAVEN’T A FUCKING CLUE about what goes into their products. If they can make such a gross error as selling beef lasagne that is 100% horsemeat, how can we ever believe that a thing advertised as ‘preservative-free’ is really what it claims to be? Or ‘organic’, come to that, although if you pay over the odds for organic more fool you. If I ever had any trust in the ‘food’ ‘industry’, it’s gone now.

    Oh, and my favourite joke on the topic: I went to Tesco and got some Bacardi, a bottle of Lamb’s, and some Value Burgers. That’s white rum, navy rum, and Red Rum. Boom-tish.

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  3. I agree. The big deal here is that people weren’t told.

    Those people who buy 40 beefburgers for a quid at Iceland: did they honestly think that was 100%, top quality beef?

    I also have eaten some ‘strange’ things. Pretty much every kind of antelope seen on Animal Planet, crocodile, alligator, kangaroo, snake, zebra, and once, deep-fried crickets in Thailand. I drew the line at the deep-fried crucified lizards but only because they looked like they died badly. They were gutted and nailed to little wooden crosses. I’ve eaten snails, frogs legs, horse, shark steak, wildebeest, camel, giraffe, birds nest soup, ostrich, and ostrich eggs, and mostly I did it because that was the choice on the menu wherever I was in the world. I also tried them so I could try them. To my knowledge, I have never eaten an endangered species.

    (In related news) this morning I was rudely awoken at 7:15 (an obscene time for a Sunday morning) when Mrs R said “There are two crows in the living room”. They had entered the house via the chimney, straight into a roaring fire. It was the work of seconds to get them out of the window and I was ably assisted by our youngest cat. I said to ‘er indoors, “If it came to it, I would eat a crow”, but I reckoned they wouldn’t taste very nice, given what they eat. She said she would rather starve but people will eat all sorts to stave off death.

    A serving of horse lasagne is infinitely preferable to crow, but I am prepared to scarf anything to stay alive. Having done survival courses with the SAS, I know that every time I walk the through the woods behind my house, I am wandering through a restaurant. If only people knew….

    What’s the betting this is the end of Findus with the loss of thousands of jobs?

    CR.

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  4. I like horse steaks, and generally make sure I indulge when I’m passing through France. I remember back in the late 60s, I used to go to Brixton (which at that time was something of a West Indian enclave) to score my dope, and I remember that in Brixton market on the meat stalls, horse meat featured heavily. I guess they must have imported it from France, as to my knowledge we’ve never had a horse meat industry in UK.

    Again back in the 60s when I was in Delhi, I used to eat sheep’s brain. It was served whole with a clear yellow curry sauce poured over it. It didn’t taste very strong, even with the curry sauce, which provided some relief from the almost inedibly hot curries that were the general fare at the bottom end of the market (street food mainly) where I was eating

    I wonder if the meat in the horse lasagne was halal? If not, then doubtless there will be another layer of breast-beating and wailing from our brethren from the religion of peace.

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  5. One thing I have eaten and drew the line at was brains. One thing I drew the line at while it was still on the butcher’s slab was cow’s udder. Pretty much everything else goes into the pot in my kitchen. Scored a pound and a half of tripe and four pigs’ trotters last week. Been living like a well-to-do Victorian artisan. Loverly. Horse butchers here (in Holland) are specialized. As you say, nowt wrong with them. Can’t understand why Dutch lambs seem to have no kidneys, though. No wonder they die so young.

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  6. I’ve no problem with eating horse and would welcome it being introduced on general sale and labelled as such. I bet there are plenty of others who woul dbuy it too.

    There seems to be something of an elephant in the room regarding the “scandal” though. The mis-identified meat, unless I am mistaken, has all come from producers outside the UK. Surely the real problem here is the EU, in that British companies are led to believe that the same stringent food controls and regulations apply across all “member states”. There seems to be something of a parallel with the previous dodgy breast implant scare. Our industry is burdened with the cost of complying with all such regulations, generally doing so to the letter, and yet we are expected to merely take it on trust that foreign producers are doing the same when they are quite evidently not.

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  7. Linda McCartney died of cancer – probably because she was nutritionally deficient. Pity that didn’t alert anyone to the vegetarian diet she was making millions from via her product range. Her endocrine system and immune system were probably heavily compromised by the lack of specific proteins, fats and minerals which can only be sourced from meat or supplements.

    Food labelling is a big problem and this horseshit is just a tiny representative sample of the havoc that globalised food-sourcing and “interdependence” has wrought, thanks to the US corporate behemoths like Monsanto, Lever Brothers, etc.

    Aspartame, for instance, is allowed by the FDA to be labelled as “natural flavorings” – even though it is anything but natural. Similarly, sugar beets, soy and corn, which are found in virtually every processed food item, are GM-sourced – either directly or indirectly. Since we don’t know the provenance of the vast majority of ingredients in our foods, there is no way we can know whether or not we’re eating frankenfoods.

    This is simply criminal.

    Recently, the Daily Mail published an article on margerine – which I seem to recall you wrote about a few years ago, Leg-iron.

    . http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2274747/At-truth-Butter-GOOD–margarine-chemical-gunk.html

    I would simply avoid all processed foods and purchase organic produce from local grocers and butchers, farmers or neighbours – or grow/rear my own. This year, I’m gearing up to produce a few more crops in my back garden and pickle/dry/freeze the excess, for use in the winter.

    Over the past year, I’ve been making ever more household stuff in order to avoid using chemical – and it has saved me a fortune. Amongs them are: general household cleaner, washing powder, diswasher powder, dishwasher salt, hair conditioner, lipstick, moisturiser, insect repellent, fabric freshner, room deodoriser, deodorant, … etc. It’s fun, cheap and hey – I no longer sneeze manically when cleaning the kitchen!

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    • I am particularly fond of butter, especially unsalted.

      Ban butter to save our hearts, says doctor – 2010

      “Butter should be banned in a bid to save thousands from heart disease, a leading heart surgeon claims.
      Dr Shyam Kolvekar said that he is “increasingly concerned” about the nation’s eating habits as he is seeing patients as young as 30 in need of heart bypass surgery due to a diet “overloaded” with saturated fat.

      According to a national diet survey, nine out of 10 of children, 88 per cent of men and 83 per cent of women in Britain eat too much saturated fat, consuming a fifth too much each day.”

      “It is estimated that by reducing saturated fat intake in line with government recommendations could prevent at least 3,500 deaths per year.

      Experts say that over time a diet too high in saturated fats can lead to raised blood cholesterol and a build up of fatty deposits in the arteries that supply the heart.

      This increases the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Cardiovascular disease is responsible for 198,000 deaths a year and costs the economy £7.9 billion a year”

      “By adjusting your diet by replacing butter with a healthy spread or margarine is a very simple thing to do and makes a whole world of difference.”

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7010677/Ban-butter-to-save-our-hearts-says-doctor.html

      “Mr Kolvekar’s comments were issued by KTB, a public relations company that works for Unilever, the maker of Flora margarine.
      However, a KTB spokesman said there were no financial ties between the consultant and Unilever and he was not receiving any payment. ‘These are his views,’ added the spokesman.

      The surgeon timed his comments to coincide with the Food Standards Agency’s campaign to promote the virtues of low-fat milk.”
      http: //www.mailonsunday.co.uk/health/article-1244048/Ban-butter-save-thousands-lives-says-heart-surgeon.html#axzz2KWzJrSzj

      What virtues of low-fat milk?

      Dairy products to carry cigarette-style health warnings as Government uses ‘shock tactics’ – 2008

      “Soon cheese and other dairy products could come with health warnings like cigarettes

      Popular dairy foods like cheese and butter could soon have to carry cigarette-style warnings in a bid to slash Britain’s soaring levels of obesity and heart disease, according to reports.

      The hard-hitting government health warnings would be aimed at urging people to cut down on the amount of saturated fat they eat and make their favourite dairy products an occasional treat rather than regular part of their everyday diet.

      According to trade magazine The Grocer, the government’s Food Standards Agency is considering using shock tactics to persuade Britons to cut down on their consumption of saturated fats.

      “The move would form part of a publicity campaign developed under the FSA’s strategy to cut consumption of fat, says The Grocer.

      A consumer study conducted for the agency by CMI Research found that an approach based on shock tactics was considered “successful in challenging complacent attitudes and preconceptions of saturated fat”.

      It added: “‘Shock tactics’ show potential to cut through the crowded media environment, are likely to be memorable and could potentially have talk value.”

      The researchers said that graphic images of fat – the kind shown on popular TV shows about food and health – had a big impact on the consumers they spoke to.

      “Dramatising the amount of saturated fat in foods in an unexpected and unappetising way proved effective, as almost all were repulsed by the idea of eating lard ” said the researchers.

      “Furthermore, it created a strong emotional response via the shocking visual images and so acted as a wake-up call to many.”

      The FSA which presented the findings to industry stakeholders last week, insisted any plans for a campaign were at “an early stage”.
      http: //www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-524931/Dairy-products-carry-cigarette-style-health-warnings-Government-uses-shock-tactics.html#axzz2KDH0IL1w

      You really do have to watch these people.

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      • ‘Shock tactics’ – like telling smokers nobody will want to talk to them, and that their cigarettes will grow cancers? Familiar tactics from people with no imagination.

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    • There’s nothing wrong with chemicals, in fact everything we eat and everything we are made from come under that description. A chemical being synthetic does not automatically make it dangerous, conversely a chemical being natural does not automatically make it safe. The active components of synthetic fertiliser and “organic” fertiliser are largely the same – the difference primarily being that the synthetic varient doesn’t also contain large amounts of bulky, ineffective additional materials and pathogenic organisms.

      Genuine cases of food poisoning are almost always down to pathogenic organisms or their waste products, not the effects of synthetic additives (as I’m sure Leg Iron will agree). Therefore “organic” food is generally no safer and, if anything, perhaps less so than “non-organic”. True, mass-processing may add additional risk points for contamination but these are nothing to do with synthetic chemicals – and “organic” food would be just as at-risk if it was sufficiently popular to warrant mass-processing. I’m all for growing your own stuff where possible (which is fun and opens up a wider range of flavours than commercially available) but it is cloud-cuckoo land to think that “organic” commercial production could reliably feed current population levels, especially at reasonable cost. It is also unusual for the typical individual to have the space and resources needed to raise livestock and, even if they did, they’d be prone to falling foul of silly legislation when it came to slaughter time.

      Totally agreed with regard to vegetarian (or particularly vegan) diets being inadequate and exposing people to potential health problems. Whilst it is difficult to separate cause and effect I must say that many of the people I’ve encountered on these diets do generally seem to be sickly, weak and have odd psychological hang-ups. Oddly (I really don’t know why it would be) they frequently also seem averse to sunlight – thereby potentially compounding the problem further!

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      • Yes, food poisoning is normally down to microbial activity, one way or another. The strange materials added to food can cause long term effects though, and I am increasingly becoming convinced that all this talk of lactose intolerance and wheat allergy is, in most cases, simply due to overload. Those cheap ingredients are used to bulk up a lot of foods now.

        The veggies are scared of sunlight becasue they haven’t drunk enough blood ;) It’s nothing a big plate of black pudding won’t cure.

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    • I saw the GM video you put up. Very interesting. There shouldn’t be any direct risk to us from the added genes, but bacteria are good at taking up extra genes (especially if they were bacterial genes to start with) and pretty fast at changing them too. New pathogens are the real risk from GM crops – not from the harvested and cooked parts, but from the composted waste.

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    • fausty wrote, “Linda McCartney died of cancer – probably because she was nutritionally deficient. Pity that didn’t alert anyone to the vegetarian diet she was making millions from via her product range. ”

      This reminds me of a recent news board exchange I had after an article in which some minor actress believed that her doc was telling her the truth when he said the likely health problem she was experiencing was “cadmium poisoning” because two people in her house smoked. She was particularly upset because she makes such a conscious effort to “eat healthy foods.”

      The funny part of this is that you’d have to live with smokers for roughly 10,000 days to absorbe 3mg of cadmium from their smoke, while a single large bag of sunflower seeds (which I’ll bet she included in her “healthy foods diet” would give her 100mg of cadmium: as much as she’d get from 300,000 days of “secondhand smoke.”

      Nonetheless, she promptly threw the smokers out into the street to smoke.

      – MJM

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    • Recently, the Daily Mail published an article on margerine

      25 years ago I visited a Canadian plant producing margerine. I had at the time enough knowledge about the petro-chemical industry and an A Level in Chemistry to realise I was looking at something you really shouldn’t be thinking about putting into your mouth. Since that time I’ve eaten only butter. Even throughout the butter-is-bad years I’ve convinced others to do likewise, including my elderly parents who eat well except for the small amount of butter.

      Incidentally, like fausty, I use few chemicals around the home too. Its often amused me that those living downwind of a chemical plant and religiously keep their windows closed are then happy to plug-in and spray air fresheners in their homes with no sense of irony.

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  8. I grew up in Central Africa and lived for 28 years in Hong Kong. I have eaten a similar range of beasties to the list given by Cap’n Ranty above. I can add water monitor, elephant, Cape buffalo, vervet monkey, baboon, cane rats, scorpions, flying ants, sea slugs and more. I enjoyed them all!
    I now am about to grow my own tobacco (seeds courtesy of Leg Iron), I rear my own chickens (layers and broilers), rabbits (English lop-ears because I can’t get California Giants) and I grow most of my own veggies. I don’t care what is put into prepared meats etc. because I simply don’t eat them because I can’t afford them.

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  9. I am beginning to think that it’s time for the people that tell people what they should eat and not eat, to go.

    It is rather important to decide when and how they are to go. For they will not go willingly. There are thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of them, they are everywhere, employed in every department of every western government (and every local and regional Soviet), they staff every “university” at every level, and they are “well laced in”.

    The easiest way would be a “great going”, when they are all ceremoniously waved onto trains, accompanied by singing, flower-throwing schoolchildren, on the 9-0-clock-news. But I do not suspect it will be this easy. “There were tears, cheers and smiles today at so many railway stations, as the vast masses of bureaucrats, greens and politicians waved goodbye to their nearest and dearest, congragated to see them off on their journey of resettlement in the East”!.

    I don’t think it’ll be as easy as that. But the buggers’ll have to go.

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  10. Brilliant post – thank you for it! Another benefit of being in the EU, then: a network of cross-border meat trades where, provided the papers are in order, anything goes. Having worked in the UK meat industry at the start of the EU takeover of regulation, I can only say “ha ha” at all this. At the time, we all knew that the standards that were so strictly enforced here were only taken as “ideal guidelines” elsewhere in Europe and totally ignored in some countries. Our business was one of those that paid the price of (then) MAFF heavy-handedness with regulation.
    The fraud entailed in this episode is a concern and needs to be dealt with very fast. But so does the laxity of enforcement elsewhere in Europe. Oh, how great it would be to have control over our own borders again.

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