Field of Science

Is there horse meat in my burger?

Does anyone else have strange encounters while grocery shopping?  This is not TPP's usual chore; he's a pedestrian and lacks a trunk.  So perhaps this is just because such shopping is so novel to him in general that it makes grocery-shopping normal seem a little strange.  While perusing the butcher counter, and considering making a meatloaf, always a bit of an ambiguous appellation anyways, meatloaf covers a lot of categories, and a woman confides in me that she isn't going to buy any ground beef until she's sure there isn't any horse meat in it.  So TPP asked, "Why would that be a problem?"  After all if you want to worry about something in burger, worry about pink slime.  This was local, ground-in-the-store beef and they don't use pink slime, and where would the horse meat come from?  Well, just the thought of eating horse meat was just more than she could bear.  Would bear be OK, or camel, or goat?  And didn't this horsemeat thing happen in Britain, not Lincolnland?  She gave me a worried or puzzled or incomprehensible look, TPP gave her his best quizzical look, and she fled for the produce section. This is an interesting example of an American food taboo, which are largely about meat.  Horses are not seen as food animals in North America, where the horse is an exotic introduced animal.  A colleague tells of a graduate student who vomited after finding out the the delicious BBQ'ed morsel from the market in Peru was guinea pig.  TPP can understand be surprised, but vomiting?  Who's in control over there?  A few years ago, a meat packer here in the Midwest landed a major contract to supply horse meat to France, and the small town could have really used the 100 or so jobs, but protests from horse-lovers prevented the "slaughter".  Yes, that's what it's called when you kill animals for food.  TPP is just old enough, and grew up just rural enough, to know people who really knew their food; they grew it, they killed it, they ate it. People are just so far removed from their food supply that they worry about all the wrong things.  Horse meat in your burger is the least of your worries.  However, the decision was made to buy some sausage; no expectations, so no worries there.   


Anonymous said...

years ago, in Boston, there was a market called the Equine Market. We shopped there as often as possible and enjoyed every bite of horsemeat - steaks, roasts - hamburger was a little dry because horsemeat has less fat than beef. Not a problem, just grind in some beef trimmings. Then the horse fanatics put an end to it. After that I had to wait for an invitation to the Harvard faculty club to get myself a nice horsemeat steak. (My husband is a Danish american and the idea of eating horse was a common one.) Ridiculous. Anyone who's been in a cattle feed lot knows that horses are a lot cleaner.

We raised rabbits for food, and I'd be delighted to eat a small rodent (not the kids' pet of course). So many superstitions about food.

Bend said...

TPP, I couldn't agree more with you regarding the horse meat. Hopefully the rest of the USA will follow Oklahoma and relegalize horse slaughter. If you would allow me to quibble with your characterization of "pink slime" as worrisome, I should point out that it is, in fact, less unhealthy than much of the alternative American fare and represents an admirable consumption efficiency. I remember in primary school how we listened with awe as our teachers described the way the Native Americans used every last part of a bison (waste not, want not). Now we are told that the same thrift applied to our beef is something that is icky. I submit a good summary explanation of pink slime from a research chemist's perspective.