Meat woes come with the territory

Kamloops Daily News
March 1, 2013 01:00 AM

European nations are in a tizzy after horsemeat was found in common food products labelled as beef or pork, but should it really come as a surprise to consumers?

Much of the world's food-supply system has been industrialized to the extent that unless you're on the floor of the meat plant, it's difficult for the average consumer to know exactly what is on their plate.

Yes, many countries - including Canada - have high standards when it comes to the safety and origin of meat, but with such high demand and high profits to be made, what's in the mixture can be a worrisome thought. How many different cows go into one burger? What is in the filler? Are there different species of animals going into the same pot? Most would no doubt rather remain ignorant of the answers.

Anyone who has seen the documentary Food Inc. will say industrialization of our meat is business as usual, and maybe it is. But the reason why horsemeat is causing such a stir is, well, because it's horsemeat.

Would a mixture of pork and beef upset as many people as horsemeat and beef? Probably not.

The likely reason is because horses, like dogs, are viewed as companion animals in our culture, whereas in other parts of the world, horsemeat is consumed as if it were beef or chicken. In fact,
according to Wikipedia, the top eight countries consume about 4.7 million horses a year.

But the detection of horsemeat in IKEA meatballs, burgers, pizza, pasta, pastries and sausages is making a lot of people squeamish and consumers in Canada thankful no horsemeat has been found in any products here.

We place our trust in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and hope for the best. It's not ideal, but we're far from the days of knowing from which farm our steak came from. Unless consumers specifically go out of their way to source their food, the industrialized system will be the norm for most.

And unfortunately, that means hearing the occasional news of horsemeat and E. coli.

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