Horse Beef, Shawarma Swine and All That Big Food

First it was Mad Cow disease… remember that? Caused by a rogue protein called a prion that tunnels through the brain until the cow falls down and dies. Scary stuff, especially when the prion managed to jump from cows and started tunnelling through human brains.

But even more disturbing is how the prions got into the food chain in the first place. In short, and without delving into the nauseating details, cows were being fed infected sheep brains, which is a violation of the natural order at such a fundamental level that nothing good can result. There are lines that cannot be crossed without courting disaster, and it would seem Big Food has crossed them all and continues to do so with zeal.

cow feed pellets... now you know why they're mad

cow feed pellets… now you know why they’re mad

The point is that industrial food production from farm to fork makes a lot of noise about “quality control”, “standards” and “regulations” when it is these very norms that allow for such nastiness as tainted feed, genetically modified organisms, toxic pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, somatic cells (pus) in milk, harmful bacteria and, last but not least, treatments and additives that leave the food nutritionally impoverished. And that’s in the best case scenario of all regulations being conformed to, which is not always the case.

Take the horse meat scandal currently ripping across Europe ever since a UK lab found that certain brands of frozen beef lasagna contained a high percentage of horse meat, in some cases 100%. The ripple effect was immediate, and further DNA testing has been locating horse meat in all sorts of “beef” prepared foodstuffs in a bunch of countries. It is, in a nutshell, a public relations nightmare wrapped in a steamy shit taco of shattered trust, even though it is not a health issue but at most a case of false advertising. But that’s hardly the point, except for the lawyers.

Part of the point is where this abundance of equine flesh filling the European raviolis comes from… an initial study conducted by UK health authorities pointed to Romania, where horse-pulled carts have recently been banned from public roads so a lot of old work horses are getting the axe. Even sadder is that the demand for horseflesh has been so strong that there are gangs killing off the Romanian wild horses for meat.

The other part of the point is that most people think eating horse is nasty, which is a cultural view that has nothing to do with the quality of the meat itself. In Spain, most every market will have at least one stand selling horsemeat, so it can hardly be considered taboo but at most a very minority option, at least as popular as criadillas, if not more.

mommy! Is that My Little Pony?

mommy! Is that My Little Pony?

For taboos we have a more serious example of food cross-dressing coming in from Switzerland, where DNA testing on samples from local shawarma joints showed that some contained a miniscule amount pork flesh, less that 0,1%. From a technical pov, this is a negligible amount, trace, residue. From a muslim pov, it is tainted in the vilest possible way, even if it were a single pork molecule it is a line that cannot be crossed. It’s like that pink slime meat glue… an affront to nature, man & all that is decent, yet relatively commonplace in the mysterious world of processed foodstuff. What we don’t know won’t hurt us… unless we actually eat it, that is.

There is a message in all this scandal, and it’s travelling further and wider than any horsemeat ever did. A lot of folks who were brand-programmed to assume certain quality standards were always met are now thinking that last ravioli tasted kinda funny after all. At a time in which public confidence is at all-time lows, the horseflesh scandal is another body blow to a Big Food model that has become a public danger to itself and to everyone else. Ironically, even as in the US a law is drafted to make criticism of industrial farm practices a crime, here we see the industry’s worse enemy is the industry itself, crumbling under the weight of its own greed and driving folks to their local markets where beef is beef, horse is horse and pork don’t go a-mixin’ with the halal meats.

Trusting Big Food with our food supply is like trusting Big Bank with our life savings and Big Gov with our human rights: a recipe for disaster. If big banks make money disappear and governments make our rights disappear, what do you think Big Food’s going to do with the edibles? So enjoy the horse meat while it lasts; someday that lasagna may be the stuff dreams are made of.

those were the days... are there any cow pellets left?

those were the days… are there any cow pellets left?

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