Eating on the hoof - is it time to stop?

Almost everyone reading this will have resorted to heating up a ready meal at some point in their life. And I bet nearly all of us have eaten a mass produced burger at some point or other. We think of fast food as being convenient but the recent revelations of at best, cross contamination and at worst, outright fraud, are making it look less than appetising.

I have never (knowingly) eaten horse meat and never (knowingly) would - simply because I've been aware of the slaughter issues for some time. Horses are large (and scary) animals and as a result get brutalised during the slaughter process to an extent, that say sheep, don't. They are also highly intelligent and have the ability to grieve. I once saw a horse in a field mourning a dead badger and standing watch over the body.

There's nothing wrong with eating horse meat in principle. It is just the manner in which they are transported and dispatched which I object to. So, if some good comes out of Shergargate, it is that the British public might wake up to the live export issue. And it is not just the UK. In the Pays Basque, the hillsides are dotted with cute looking horses and ponies. In our house these are referred to as ‘sausage’ ponies as they are all destined for the Italian slaughterhouses. So think about that the next time you buy a pizza topped with ‘pepperoni’ - I bet there’s some ‘sausage’ pony in there somewhere!

Personally I don't think that any animal should travel long distances to slaughter. Every town should have an abattoir but people don't like confronting the reality of where their sausages come from. I always buy French beef rather than the cheaper Polish or Dutch beef that is available in all French supermarkets and try to shop ethically and locally but it is difficult.

But with news now emerging that there is a lot of potentially contaminated Romanian horse meat in the food chain, I’m going to be inspecting my ‘beef’ very, very closely. And making my own burgers. And avoiding fast food. How about you?

Get a minceur and a good local boucherie who uses locally raised animals for your source of cuts. There is an old saying attributed to Prince Bismarck that “to retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.” In the states the quote is attributed to Mark Twain, who little doubt stole it from Bismarck. Globalized supermarket chains should only be patronized for trash bags and toilet paper - and the occasional printer ink cartridge. Their food is mass produced rubbish, manufactured with only the bottom line profits in mind.

Here you are Celeste -AMAP ! It's a really good way to minimise your food miles.

My husband just pointed out that I need to avoid my favourite sausage charcuterie...I buy lots of different ones and serve them pre dinner with a drink......we have no way of knowing what goes into those and as Jocelyn says....even if its made from scratch by a local Artisan, how do they know the meat they buy is safe, the animal it is claimed to be and not tainted by bacterial/viral or rodent contaminants.

Catharine - if you & SFN members are concerned about this issue, avoiding ready-meals is not enough. There are animal/meat derived "sous-produits" in all sorts of basic foods. It is now beginning to dawn on people who really believed that they "cooked from scratch" that they don't - well certainly not all the time. There are all sorts of basic store cupboard ingredients that could contain animal ingredients of questionable origin & traceability. If the food industry is cutting corners in animal welfare & meat production you can be sure they are cutting corners in the production of "sous produits" too.

Ok so I have been making lots of jokes to my French friends in order to reap a little revenge for the years of derrogatory comments about English food, but this scandal has hit the heart of the community in which I live as we are only 20 minutes away from Castelnaudary and Spanghero is one of the big, local brand.

Most of the time cassoulets, confits and so forth are home-made but we have all at some point opened a tin of one of the big, local brands

When the scandal hit the UK it was not big news in France and everyone assumed that the problem was because the English don’t eat horse meat. I tried to explain that from my own point of view it was not a question of the type of meat but the fact that it managed to get into the consumer food chain unnoticed.

Now that Spanghero is involved they have all changed their tune and yes, local supermarkets are clearing shelves.

About two years ago Spanghero withdrew about 11 tonnes of e-coli contaminated meat from the market and only yesterday a ‘Chaurienne’ was telling me of another scandal involving mass contamination at the factory site. Added to this were other stories such as the Durfort charcuterie factory (10 minutes walk from my village) where two friends witnessed rats falling into mincing machines and were told to ignore it.

Transport, customs controls and correct labeling are essential but what also frightens me is the lack of controls within French food manufacturing, if these stories are to be believed

My mother in law said that Spanghero is ‘pas net’ and has never been so. When I asked why there has never been a tightening of controls she just shrugged and said that locals know which products are likely to untainted and simply avoid the rest. No one bothers to report anything, not least because a closure of the factory could mean family members losing their jobs.

Oh and John....the majority of the best cooks arent men....the majority are chefs...but most of the best cooks are women....and that is historical and is changing as more women enter catering colleges.

I dont assume men dont cook husband is one of the few...both my brothers cook...both my sons cook, my husband was clever so was let off all tasks at home so he could I got a useless specimen (love him really!) and I made sure my boys cooked/cleaned/ironed...interestingly....taught the daughter as well but she cant/wont cook. Ive always done all the cooking/cleaning/shopping...he does the garden. At one time I had 3 kids under 5 worked full time (3 nursing jobs putting in some weeks 50 plus hours) but still I cooked from scratch....not a hero...but its my love and it relaxes I loved coming home and cooking. My mother is horrified that both my brothers cook/clean/shop and their wives, who do work full time, but dont cook/clean etc....but it never worried her that I have the same situation in reverse!

And why do women assume men cant cook when the majority af the best cooks are men, my mother taught me to cook she took a pride in her cooking as i do telling me she would not be here for ever and must learn to look after myself so i can cook, iron and my wife will tell you i am a better at ironing than she is sew on buttons i dont darn or knit and i was changing nappies at 12 having a sister 12 years younger oh and my wife is in the uk for two weeks and i wont be living on Mc D or beans on toast plus not a trace of horse all my steak comes from the American beef farmer in the Gers, you wont regret trying it Catharine though all his beef is now sold next order date is May

Carol, Veronique there lies a tale, yes my friend can cook in fact he cooks very well for himself and children now, back years ago we were both field service engineers working long hours all over the country getting home at 9.30pm or later after a 14 hour+ day was the normal, his wife who didnt work at that time refused to cook so late in the evening and didnt prepare the meal earlier because she was watching Crossroads and other soaps yes it was early 70s so he started collecting take aways as he got close to home,take aways at that time were basically fish and chips the situation got steadily worse and the inevitable happened she was and still is a party girl having gone through a steady stream of men some realising quicker than others she is extremely high maintenance and a financial mill stone

I have not been active on your site for a while, and looking at the picture I posted hurts like hell,for I was still healthy back then, but I have to say, I starting getting hill and have resorted to never going to ANY fast food as off many years ago, when I, a French rural girl from the restaurant industry, moved to the US. We should all make the effort of NOT supporting all processed foods, just because it is really very bad for us, but also very dangerous. No Dcs has found out what is really wrong with me, as all sorts of symptoms keep popping up and have changed my life entirely. So I support you and your ideas Catharine and wish for all to stay healthy.

It does depend - I don't get the honey as with three kids it would work out too expensive but the (sustainably caught) fish is 10€ a kilo and the free range chicken is 6€ which is pretty competitive. And it does make us eat vast quantities of veg!

Oh that's a relief as my one hesitation is that they seem rather 'posh' (ie expensive...) especially as it's based in the town centre (ie well off people usually). Well I have signed up for it & it's 'under construction' at the moment , so we shall see!

I've been a member of an AMAP for the last three years and can't recommend it enough. It works out surprisingly cheap too. I pay 1€ for six free range eggs which has to be the bargain of the century!

Yes, Catherine, that was my reaction too, to cook my own meals from scratch even more than I do now, and to find a local organic butcher ASAP. I'm thinking of joining an AMAP like La Ruche( central distribution point in town for local organic producers of all sorts of things, not just veggies. Apparently you can make up your basket on the internet then collect it on a Tuesday evening).

Just watched BBC news...and see the horse problem has spread to France...and that shelves are being cleared in French can guess that this is going to be Europe wide.

haha Vero....on the post looks like the wife too lazy to cook and the man....well....was a man so couldnt possibly cook! actually....I have one of those too....when I am living in the UK...he lives on apples, bananas, muesli, bread and cheese!

John, why couldn't your friend cook? (the one who practically lived on take-aways).

A Romanian veterinary certainly did not made ​false information. Rather one of these little greedy middlemen wanted to make quick a few euros and over the whole venerable stress lost the papers in the misty markets. Poor guy.
This has hopefully also something good and there will be more & more people who will, when in doubt, leave these weird products simply in the shelf. Even though I'm not a cabbage and muesli "gourmet" this stuff was always far too dangerous. Potatoes from Egypt, apple from South-Africa and all organic, and then by 2 & get 1 4 free;-)

I am amazed to see as I wander around my local French supermarkets, how much convenience foods younger French women buy...and by younger I mean under 50. My trolly is laden with fresh fruit and veg and invariably they have dozens of packs of ready meals....most of the Brits I know that moved to France did so in part for the great food (allegedly) and enjoy cooking from most of us on this thread will claim I dont think its the Brits buying all the convenience food in France...