When it emerged that there was horsemeat in cheap burgers, some people thought it might spark a revolution in the British meat industry. Now that the public are more aware of the ins and outs of it all – the complicated and murky supply chains, the potential drug contamination, the images of badly-wrapped frozen meat – perhaps cheap meat would lose its attraction.
But it doesn’t seem to have done so. Despite the stories about sales of game meat soaring and of people going back to basics and cooking from scratch, sales of processed meats such as sausages and burgers are still booming – both in the UK and abroad.
Perhaps a book called Farmageddon will do what previous meat ‘scandals’ have failed to do. It’s written by Philip Lymbery, the head of Compassion in World Farming, so it comes as no surprise that the author disapproves of many of the methods used in intensive farming. But what might be a more shocking revelation from the book is the mutation involved. Dairy cows in China have been injected with human genes in a bid to make them produce ‘human-like’ milk – an alternative to formula or cows’ milk. Again, in China in 2011, pigs were pumped full of illegal muscle-building steroids which made the animals so big that their legs couldn’t support them – and 300 people were poisoned by the tainted pork. Israeli chickens are being bred without feathers – surely plucking them is just a waste of time? After all, the more efficient the animal, the more money can be made from it.
There have been numerous attempts by celebrity chefs to try to inform children about where their food comes from. But maybe instead of encouraging cookery classes in schools, we ought to be teaching them about what is in their food. It might not be nice, and it might not be pretty, but surely it’s kinder in the long run if the next generation knows what, exactly, they are using to fuel their bodies. And if they still choose to eat cheap meat, at least they’re aware of their decision.