Monday, March 11, 2013

Mystery meat

Have you heard about the horse meat? I know, it's old news by now. But I decided that I, as a reflective ex-pat and sole writer of this blog, am qualified to write about it, because I want to.

A few weeks ago, horsemeat was discovered in several kinds of processed meat products in five European countries. The foods were labelled as containing beef, but actually contained mostly horsemeat. The item that seems to be most disturbing to consumers is frozen lasagna.

I understand the uproar - you should not be eating a horse when you think you are eating a cow. There's nothing wrong with eating horse meat, however, except that horses are pretty.

The EU prides itself on food safety, on banning many genetically engineered crops, even on regulating the size and shape of bananas. It seems like the horse meat scandal has all the European countries very embarrassed and pointing fingers at each other.

I found this in a BBC article:

"Frozen processed foods had arrived in Germany, via Luxembourg, from Comigel - the supplier in northeastern France which sent mince containing horsemeat to several UK retailers. The supermarket giant Tesco, frozen food firm Findus and budget chain Aldi received mince containing horsemeat from Comigel.

The French firm denied wrongdoing, saying it had ordered the meat from Spanghero, a firm in southern France, via a Comigel subsidiary in Luxembourg - Tavola. The supply chain reportedly led back to traders in Cyprus and the Netherlands, then to abattoirs in Romania."

So it's the Romanians' fault. Let's blame it on them and see if they fight back.

German paper Der Spiegel reported that horse meat found in canned goulash was traced back to suppliers in Poland. Germany can try pointing its finger at the Poles, but they should be careful. The Poles are probably still resenting that whole World War II invasion thing.

Then horse meat showed up at the most beloved of all European institutions: Ikea. Inspectors discovered that the iconic Swedish meatballs contained horse meat. The source turned out to be a Swedish supplier working with, again, a Polish slaughterhouse.

This scandal has caused EU powers to propose a new plan for labelling any products containing meat. The food packaging would have to state the origin of the food, in this case where the animal was raised. I don't know for sure, but I'm assuming "mystery meat" is not an acceptable classification.

I am all in favor of knowing where you food came from or how far it has traveled, but doing so only after a horse meat scandal seems somehow unfair. Does this mean that shoppers will stop buying meat that comes from Poland or Russia? Who's to say that meat produced in other places is any safer? Isn't the EU supposed to be like one big economy where borders aren't important? I guess not.

Maybe the issue is really about cheap meat. Not to get on my high horse (bad pun - haha) about ethical meat-eating, but if buyers demand a low price for meat, then they are going to get low quality meat, right? Maybe people should just pay a little more for meat and eat it less often. Maybe they should just go for the veggie lasagna next time.

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About Me

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Thanks for coming to my blog. It started as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, and now has become an ongoing project. I'm an American living in Germany and trying to travel whenever I can. I write about my experiences as an expatriate (the interesting ones and the embarrassing ones), and about my travels. There are some recurring characters in this blog, particularly my husband Brian and several of our friends. The title comes from the idea that living in a foreign country means making a lot of mistakes. So the things you used to do easily you now have to try over and over again. Hopefully, like me, you can laugh at how idiotic it feels. If you have happened upon my blog, then welcome. Knowing that people are reading what I write makes me keep going. Feel free to write comments or suggestions for future posts.