“All our burgers are Shergar-Free”

How’s that for tasty?

How’s that for tasty?

Britain has been scandalised by the news that many “beef-burgers” sold in major supermarkets contain traces of other meats, including pork and — shock horror — horse!  Reportedly some Tesco burgers had 29% horse meat.  Cue innumerable horse-jokes and puns (I liked the Matt cartoon of a father offering burgers to a child with the caption “You always wanted a pony”).  Plus immediate panic in the supermarket business, with huge numbers of burgers removed from the shelves and — presumably — destroyed.  And newspaper stories speaking constantly about “contamination”.

But was it really “contamination”?  Let’s be clear.  It is an offence against food labelling laws to declare the product to be made of beef, while adding other and cheaper meats.  But the fact is that horse meat is perfectly healthy and nutritious.  The burgers may have been illegal in labelling terms, but they were good healthy protein.  I am sorry to think of all that good food effectively wasted, when many in the world go hungry.

In the same way, it was tragic during the BSE scare, to see so much food destroyed because of rather small and speculative risks.  Imagine going to the world’s starving and saying “Would you rather starve now, or eat meat and accept a vanishingly small risk of a life-threatening disease in twenty years’ time?”.  I daresay they would accept beef-and-horse-burgers with gratitude and relish.  And in the case of the burgers, there is no risk at all.

The problem with horse-meat in England is largely cultural and emotional.  We love our horses, and are shocked at the idea of eating them.  But then as a dairy farmer remarked to me, “I love my cows, but I have no problem eating beef”.  We are told that we are all now “European Citizens” (though I don’t remember agreeing to be a European Citizen), and many of our neighbours in Europe happily eat horse-meat.  I’ve eaten horse-meat in France, and it was perfectly pleasant and acceptable.

And before you get too shocked — you’ve probably eaten it too.  Ever had Italian salami?  Of course you have.  And the chances are it had a proportion of horse or donkey in the mix.

The issue is not whether we eat horse-meat, but whether the horses are humanely treated before the end up on the plate. That’s why I’ve done a of work over the years on the rules relating to long-distance horse transport.

The burgers concerned in this case were (according to news reports) at the bottom end of the price range.  These are the burgers that in these straightened times, mothers struggling with the household budget would have been buying for their children — and the children would be none the worse for them.  An economical and tasty meal.

Maybe an enterprising supermarket could start a new economy range of burgers described as “Beef and other meats”.

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28 Responses to “All our burgers are Shergar-Free”

  1. maureen gannon says:

    Much ado about nothing Roger, had it not been for the fact that it is all the parts of the animal that our European friends don’t eat ground to a powder to use as a bulk filler for the cheapo burgers that our Supermarkets sell that to my mind is wrong.
    As for eating horse meat I didn’t have to go abroad to sell it , as a child lived in Stratford part of the war and after it, there was a shop that sold horse meat, big notice inside for animal use only not for human consumption the queue on a Saturday when they opened was a long one , we certainly did not have a dog and I shouldn;t imagine many others did either, It was wrong that pork was added wonder if it contaninated any Muslims? not all of them abide by the halal rule. but then again is anyone surprised that this is happening? Mum used to make a scrummy steak toad with it..

  2. They can probably add diced rat meat, and cut down the chances of being prosecuted for doing it accidently.

  3. We don’t we get up a multiculturalism and diversity petition, to encourage horseflesh-eating. I want to add Korean dogburgers to the list too, always wanted to try them, I know it makes me feel multicultural.

    • I was in Korea for four years and never ate dog (I’d know if I had, because eating dog is a big deal in Korea — like eating caviar). I really would feel bad about dog-meat, and I can’t explain why. Perhaps because dogs are omnivores, whereas cows and deer and horses are herbivores. The horse, in particular, generally has a very healthy diet.

  4. Stephen Russell says:

    Spot on, Roger. British sentimentality to the fore here. Had the cheapo burgers contained dog or cat as well as beef, I might have understood (albeit to the continued bemusement of some of our friends in East Asia).

  5. mikestallard says:

    Just before Christmas I went to a good restaurant in Iceland and there were those delightful, friendly little horses which stand out in the arctic cold all winter in the form of burgers.
    Me, I went for the Minki whale…..

  6. Mike Spilligan says:

    Mr H: I’m 100% with you on this, and similar to yourself my biggest objection to the reporting of this episode is the use of the word “contaminated” by the media – just to dramatise it – but there it is, once the media reports it as contamination, there’s no arguing.

  7. The real issue here was the labelling, which would have been very badly wrong whether the law had a view on it or not. Your suggestion for ‘Beef and other meat burgers’, would be misleading too I feel, as well as being difficult to market. Possibly they should be called ‘Meat Burgers’, although even this could become misleading too, even if it didn’t start that way.
    One thing I am certain of is that Beef Burgers have been, and probably still are, dishonestly sold. The extent to which the retailers themselves knew this is the issue that most interests me.

  8. ogga1 says:

    Ivory Coast, chef brings in joint for dinner for 6 construction workers, cries of “cheval” out go’s the
    joint in comes the salad, next night cottage pie for dinner cries of more,more, never did know where the joint went.
    It would be more to the point to use the word “contaminated” as in The Lib/Lab/Con/ misleaders
    suffer from pro EU contamination and this is proving very anti GB.

  9. Linda Hudson says:

    If people dont object strongly to the deception, then we will be eating anything that the powers that be care to put in our food. I am sure I have had my share of horse flesh, as twice I have bought meat that tasted nothing like beaf that was supposed to be in a frozen meal, these were made in Ireland, but it never had what country the meat was produced in on the label. Because of the obscure labeling of food, today, I am like Miss Marple, especially when shopping for meat products!

    • maureen gannon says:

      Totally agree with you Linda , never buy processed meat and my local butcher delivers to me so would not buy meat from supermarkets, home grown is best..

  10. Derpy says:

    The main issue is mislabeling. If you buy beef burgers, you expect them naturally to only contain dead cows, not dead horses. If someone wants to produce horse burgers, feel free. But give people the chance to say “Neigh!” if they choose not to eat them.

  11. Roger Turner says:

    I confess to sentimentality, I wouldn`t “knowingly” eat horsemeat as I wouldn`t eat dog or cat.
    I wouldn`t be surprised if I was in the democratic majority on this particular aspect.
    But the real issue is was there deliberate deception involved anywhere in the supply chain or was it just a favourable “interpretation” of EU directives? Seem to remember having many arguments with Tesco about the source of chickens said to be British, which turned out to be EU (still not fully sure if this one has been “fudged – i.e swept under the carpet”)
    Sorry,if something says contents BEEF the it should moo not neigh and if it is “contaminated” (Chamber`s definition “to defile by touching or mixing with”) then I do not consider the press to be over reacting It`s these little things “they” try to get away with, which if not nipped in the bud only lead top sanctioning the bigger democratic losses.

  12. Roger Turner says:

    Well here we are a fortnight or so later – this “over reaction” by the press.
    What is your view now Mr Helmer? – the problem is now enormous involving all sorts of countries in and out of the EU.
    In the absence of a forum, you are one of the avenues I am trying to use to inform my party UKIP of the opportunity I see in this to draw attention to the reasons why this nationj needs to leave the EU now, not after some idiotic referendum 5 years down the line designed to ensure the EUphiles win.
    I listened to the words of the Minister this morning and later the discussion on Sunday politics.
    My initial reaction would have been to ban the import of ALL foreign meat imports, but we were told that this was illegal under EU rules as inspection is an evidence based system and so far there is only evidence of “wrong labeling” not actual harmful content.
    i.e. we have fallen for the umbrella of EU legislation to prevent correct necessary action.
    Do they not realise a monstrous fraud is being perpetrated on the British people – too bad we can`t do much about it, that`s what we`ve signed up to.
    And as for this lame excuse that anything untoward can get into France over its borders without check until after an actual danger arises- The mind boggles at the dereliction of duty on the part of this government and the previous government who introduced this policy and the French,Irish and Roumanian governments.
    It`s a classic case of bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
    Come on UKIP you are missing an open goal on this one! Call for an immediate ban on all processed meat goods, contaminated or potentially contaminated. and even link it up with the crooked sort of thinking which goes on in Roumania and watch out for their immigrants etc.
    Get the ball out of touch where WE (us UKIP) seem to be content to kick it – that`s EU thinking.

  13. Linda Hudson says:

    The government to champion the U.K. farmers who are the world best for good wholesome meat, reared by healthy practice both veterinary, animal health, and welfare, inwhich the U.K. surpasses any European, and E.U.meat product, and food standards, also is easy to track and trace, something this international criminal food debacle can never achieve!

    • Roger Turner says:

      Linda what,in effect. you are saying is” British Meat on British plates”
      If we want perfect surety I agree.
      But it won`t happen, basically because I think that surety comes at a price we cannot and in the main, don`t want to afford.
      Anyway the EU wouldn`t allow it.
      That`s why we want out of the EU completely not Cameron`s specious promise of jam tomorrow..We need an in/out referendum now.
      Just a thought this, apparently is regulation not working – perhaps it was never designed to work – the EU is more interested in regulating its citizens – that works -ask the Greeks

  14. Roger Turner says:

    Wednesday,our minister has had a crisis meeting in Brussels – result – no further progress on getting to the bottom of it – Minister thinks it is fraud – Interpol called in ? don`t make me laugh.
    They`re too busy getting the tale straight and making sure it doesn`t come out that it is EU stupidity or worse.
    Just a thought where have all these horses come from? – this alleged fraud is on an industrial scale, there must be an open market for horsemeat, there must be farms devoted (long term) to producing horses for slaughter.
    It must have been evident when the EU was originally setting up the system that the rules covered horsemeat as well as beef.
    Could it be that someone said “the British do`nt eat horsemeat”?
    and the answer was ” they`re in the EU now and they`ll just have to get used to it!(lump it) and become “good Europeans”.”
    I`ve got a feeling there`s organised crime behind this (money laundering?) and there`s many people (high up) that know it has been going on, perhaps for years, and have been keeping stumm – because it has gone on so long that it had almost become endemic.
    i.e institutionalised!

    • Linda Hudson says:

      I have a haunting feeling that there is so much organised crime, money laundering, and worse going on, that it is because of this, the powers that be, cannot allow the withdrawal of their countries from the E.U. regime!

      • Roger Turner says:

        “haunting feeling” – good description Linda – will we ever get confirmation? or anybody do anything about it? even question why the accounts never get signed off?
        Not a hope! we`re asleep (or cowed) as a Nation
        Maggie did at least wake us up for a while – but I`m afraid we`ve returned to supine default position

  15. Roger Turner says:

    Linda – is it just you and me that are getting it right about the political implications of this heinous crime that has been perpetrated on the apathetic British people?
    “The British don`t eat horse” is/was a truism – do we not find it at least insulting that some body has been foisting it on us – have we no pride left?
    I`m not a lawyer, but to me this deliberate mixing of species, contravening the stated product on the label, is “passing off”, i.e you are made to believe you have purchased one thing and it is actually another (e.g.Beef single, beef/horse marriage) – that`s fraud.
    I`m not seeing/hearing UKIP getting hold of this – have you?

  16. Linda Hudson says:

    Roger, it’s the last straw for me, nobody messes with my food, not even the audacious E.U., the next thing the E.U. will want, is our very soul!

    • Roger Turner says:

      For “soul” read “Sovereignty”
      They`ve already got it!,
      We are “citizens” of the State called EU – it finally went with the signature of the Lisbon treaty and our agreement to the ratchet clause.
      The Big Game in Paris! (right shaped ball)
      (excuse my French)
      “Rosbiffs versus Roscheveaux”

  17. Linda Hudson says:

    They have thought of everything, nothing has been left to chance!
    Now we all sit on a volcano waiting to erupt!

    • Roger Turner says:


      It won`t be Lava that comes out – it will be EUfudge

      There`s the EU sitting like some sort of deity, fat and oily with a self satisfied smile all over its face, having created and presided over the whole system and then refusing to accept the responsibility for sorting it out.
      Quicker we leave this corrupt outfit the better!

      Still haven`t heard from UKIP – are they missing an open goal?

  18. Richard Henderson says:

    C’mon UKIP. Let’s hear from you. Richard North is pointing finger.

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