A Meaty Matter: Truth in Advertising

Ik-meatball copy
Artist’s Rendition
Horse Meat seems to be de rigueur on menus across Europe these days. Personally, having horse for dinner is not my thing, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

One huge issue around this galloping food trend — or mane attraction —  is that this horse meat is being passed off as beef at several chain establishments and food corporations throughout Europe.

These venues (Ikea, Nestle, Taco Bell) have admitted that suppliers duped  them by selling them horse meat that was labeled as beef.

The Press Have “Run Away” With this Story With “Unbridled” Enthusiasm (yuk yuk yuk):

tacoliciousTacoBell Discovers Horse Meat in UK Restaurants

“….Taco Bell has had to pull ground beef from its UK outlets.”

However, testing won’t occur for US Taco Bell Stores. In a statement released yesterday, Taco Bell explains:

“Our domestic restaurants have not been, and will not be, impacted because we do not use any meat from Europe. We stand for quality and we use 100% premium beef.  Like all beef in the United States, ours is USDA inspected and then passes our own 20 quality checkpoints. To learn more about our ingredients and food facts, please visit us at: http://www.tacobell.com/nutrition/foodfacts

Ikea Recalls Meatballs After Detection of Horse Meat

“The furniture giant Ikea joined a growing list of brands that have been touched by Europe’s food scandal on Monday and withdrew its signature Swedish meatballs from its markets and cafeterias across most of Europe after one batch was found to contain traces of horse meat.”

Nestlé Removes 2 Products in Horse Meat Scandal

“First centered on Britain and Ireland, the scandal over beef products adulterated with horse meat escalated across Continental Europe on Tuesday after Nestlé, one of the world’s best-known food companies, said it was removing pasta meals from store shelves in Italy and Spain.”

I have to admit I haven’t prepared or eaten beef since my college days. However, as an avid cook myself, I have to wonder: does horse meat even look like beef? A seasoned chef could distinguish the two from each other.  Horse meat supposedly tastes like a cross between beef and venison.

Visual acuity in distinguishing horse from cow meat notwithstanding, this issue speaks to a larger issue, in my opinion, of how a massive, industrialized, anonymous and globalized food supply chain can lead to problems around preventing and tracking diseased or mislabeled food.

While the scandal over replacing beef with horse meat probably won’t result in lost lives, it’s very likely that the US will start selling horse meat again in grocery stores across the country. This scandal illustrates that we have to be ever-vigilant and conscious about monitoring our food supply as best we can. Some people try to do this by eating only locally-grown food. Others might steer clear of these chain stores or mass produced fast foods.

Ultimately, if one eats out at restaurants or shops at grocery stores, the matter seems somewhat beyond our control. After all, I eat what I think is “tuna” regularly — only to learn that 59% of all tuna served in the United States is actually some other fish. As long as we partake in this global food supply chain, we will probably always have some supplier or factory farmer who is horsing around with our grub.