Thursday, January 17, 2013

Today's special - Horse Meat Hamburger

If you were to believe television in India, we are on the brink of war with the Pakistani army/Jehadi’s beheading our soldiers. Never mind killing the poor chaps, it’s the beheading that has got our retired moustaches i.e. Generals out of their club bar and onto our TV screens. They have fine moustaches, but, unfortunately, according to me, they are all living in la la land.

However, there is a far bigger story emerging in the UK, and I would imagine soon engulf Western Europe. This is bound to get lots of people worked up. The Green and PETA lot who want us to turn vegetarian. The vegetarians, vegans, Jains, health freaks and so many others.  What is the problem, you ask. One word folks. Horsemeat!!  Yes friends, 4 huge supermarket chains have been selling hamburger which contains up to 29% meat from horses. Yes, giddy up!

This raises many issues. It has also had me convulsed with laughter.

I am sure you know that there is no `ham’ in hamburgers. Similarly I am sure you know that there is no `dog’ in a hot dog. In India there is no beef, no lamb, and often no chicken but only potato in a hamburger and hot dog. But that is beside the point. Many of you would know that Chicken Nuggets that are sold by the KFC’s and MacDonald’s of the world are not chicken pieces buy generally meat slurry which is liquefied chicken meat, further processed and formed into the desired shape. Of course we lovingly feed our kids this on every outing to the mall.

Ok, first things first. Protein is expensive. It’s far more expensive than carbohydrates or starch. Beef, Lamb, Chicken, Turkey, Fish, Duck, Eggs and our simple daals are all more expensive than an equal quantity by weight of all carbohydrates. Potato, pasta, rice, wheat and other forms of carbohydrates are cheap. I hope people get this simple inalienable fact straight.

Secondly, you must have heard the phrase pay peanuts get monkeys. Well, why is air travel so uncomfortable, why is food so bad on aircraft, why is service so bad? Answer, people want to pay as little as possible to fly. Price determines everything. So why should or how can, airlines provide everything if the passenger is not willing to pay a decent price for his seat. Similarly, buying hamburgers [minced meat, kheema] cheap can only mean that you will not get good cuts or the meat will be diluted/adulterated/mixed with a cheaper item to add bulk and reduce price. Why do so many cheap cutlets and kebabs not taste or not have the texture of meat? Simply because they are filled with bread, potato and what have you. In the good old days before we all got rich and fat, did your mom not add lots of bread soaked in water to your minced meat and make delicious cutlets? She was economising. Some of you may remember what had happened in the kitchens and dining rooms of the hallowed Bombay Gymkhana some years ago. The menu said `Mutton Samosas’. It turned out that they were actually Beef Samosas and not Mutton Samosas. This was not by DNA testing but just some political intrigue within the factions of the then Managing Committee and Food and Beverage Committee. That had Bombay’s social set frothing. Why did this happen? Monkeys, peanuts, budgets, pricing and unreal demands by members.  

Third, horse meat is not poison, it will not kill you. Horse meat is also cheaper than hamburgers [minced meat, kheema]. It may taste funny, it may have a different texture it may, to use an Americanism – gross you out – but if you add it to hamburgers [minced meat, kheema] you will not know the difference.

Now let’s put all this together. Large supermarkets selling cheap hamburger to people who do not want to pay good money for a product, will compromise. So how do the supermarkets compromise. To quote the inimitable Giles Coren, “You are not going to get delicious free-range, organic, rare breed, heritage beef, grass-fed, Eton-educated, humanely slaughtered, dry-aged and hand-ground beef. What you will certainly get is mechanically reclaimed connective tissue ... scrapings from the abattoir floor”. Meat slurry rings a bell? To add bulk, why not add some horse meat? Does any of this surprise you?

I confess that I am surprised as to how the supermarkets got away with labelling this product. Did they outright lie and not mention horsemeat? Did the supermarket supplier simply deceive the supermarket and add horse meat without telling the supermarket? Obviously the supermarket was not doing DNA testing on the supply, let’s be honest, one would not expect any supermarket to run such tests.

This is a most interesting story. I would like to see how this develops. Many `jholawallahs’ in India as well as abroad will be frothing.    


  1. 10 million burgers off the shelves,big branded meat suppliers and factories under scrutiny and astronomical economic damages- all this for contaminating hamburgers with horse meat.

    Consumers in India are being taken for ride every day and no one cares. Buy any 'fresh fruit juice' and there isn't a trace of fresh fruit in that.

    At least they had some meat in their hamburgers ;)

  2. Absolutely correct. And as I had once written, no rum in Rum & Raisin chocolate!!!