Frideswide O’Neill had the privilege of being sent horse mince and horse sausages from Kezie Foods in Scotland to review for The Mancunion
I was sent 500g of horse mince and cooked a bolognese (or should I say bologneighs) in order to decide whether I had any gustatory objections to it. After stewing it in a heavily red wine laden tomato sauce for almost two hours (it was pretty tough meat!) I concluded, as did four friends who joined me, that it was eventually tender, fairly gamey and just as delicious as any beef bolognese I’ve had. One friend who cooked the sausages declared them a very satisfactory alternative to pork and proceeded to make meatballs with them. We decided that the horse meat was rich like venison, but without the price tag (£7.06 per kilo of horse mince). And it’s not all that different from beef either.
Everybody loves a good food scandal. Suddenly, the media are talking about something which might be relevant to many of us – it’s more than likely that you have inadvertently eaten whatever food is ‘taboo of the day’. So this time, it’s horse dressed as beef, and what have we got to say about it? Are we disgusted with ourselves, distressed over the fate of the horses or just disillusioned with the supermarkets who have lied to us? It seems that many of us have adopted the last stance, that the presence of horse meat in what is labelled as ‘beef’, whether the result of incompetence or deliberate deception has somewhat destroyed consumer confidence in some of our larger supermarkets. It’s certainly right that we should be angry and concerned about food which has been wrongly labelled.
However, a large proportion of the media coverage of the horse scandal has brushed over the real issue: the mislabelling of food products. Instead they focus on the supposed ‘contamination’ of the goods found to contain horse meat. Contamination, as defined by the OED, suggests defilement, pollution and infection, implying that horse meat is dirty, harmful or even poisonous and encouraging these incorrect beliefs in those who may already feel uneasy with the idea of eating it.
Of course what you eat and what you don’t eat is entirely up to you but it is deceptive and provocative of the media to subtly suggest that horse meat is in any ethical or nutritional sense substandard to beef or any other meat we happily eat.
Later, I wondered what exactly stops those of us who eat beef, lamb, pork, chicken, goose, turkey (you get the point) from eating horse? After all, the animals we commonly eat in Britain are herbivorous, non-house pets and non-vermin. A horse fits all of these criteria. Yet when I asked one of my housemates whether she wanted to join us for supper she exclaimed ‘no way! I have a pet horse!’ So perhaps the real reason is that some people are averse to eating an animal they feel emotionally attached to. After all, we ride horses, groom them and even talk to them. An emotional aversion to something is a fair reason not to eat it. But, importantly, it is not an adequate reason to judge others for doing so.