Is it fair to say that there is still a lot we don’t know about horse meat? Allegations are flying left right and centre over where the contamination came into the food chain. I suspect there are plenty of innocent people being accused of all kinds of things by a torch bearing mob.
The truth is simple though. Horse meat has been found in a number of ready meals and pre-processed products. In one example, a lasagne, the meat content was 100% horse. We possibly may never find the whole truth as this has to be a highly organised fraud, possibly spanning several legal jurisdictions. This is no accident caused by failing to wipe down a cutting table. Paperwork has been falsified and several organisations duped. Some abattoirs handle horses. Some cutting plants handle horses. It’s licensed and has been going on for years. This is probably where a witch hunt will injure the innocents. What is the crime is the switching from calling it horse to calling it beef. Whether the horse was destined for the human, pet or other markets is another consideration if the fraud is so organised.
A lot of what happens in the food industry is down to the flow of trust. Not just blind trust, but that the right people have filled in the right paperwork. The audit trail is very clear and several professionally qualified people are involved in that process. In the UK, to get beef to the butcher, at least one vet has signed off the known cattle. There is a passport, a vet certificate and a clear flow of paperwork all the way through. When meat arrives, it is clear what it is, where is it has come from and who handled it.
Since 2008, that’s exactly how we have done things. When you make your own produce, you know what has gone into it. You know when you have got it right when you see the farmer sat in the restaurant. That is ultimate quality control. In 2010 the National Farmers Union (NFU) awarded us their Local Food Champion Award. We know our meat, where it came from and how it got to us. We have worked with the same breed of beef since 2008 and know how to respect it when the meat is delivered to the kitchen by Ian Barker.
A few years ago we got interviewed by those lovely people at Wiggly Wigglers. Heather (@Wiggled on Twitter) mentioned that the supply chain was about traceability. Her husband Phil (@FarmrPhil from Twitter) is a beef farmer and an expert in his domain. Chef Dan answered with a simple phrase “it’s all about blame”. Trust is ultimately about responsibility. We trust our supply chain. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t use the same butcher for our family meals.