U.K. "beef lasagne" made entirely of horse meat

What happens when you wed French suppliers and British standards? "The meat content of some beef lasagne products recalled by Findus was up to 100% horsemeat, the Food Standards Agency has said." [BBC]


  1. And worth bringing to mind that this is happening in a supply chain which allegedly was overhauled and strengthened, and copper-bottomed and gilded after the BSE crisis of not many years past. So that farm to table traceability thing worked out well.

    1. I’ve worked with people on both the supply and retail side of the meat industry over the last decade, and I can tell you that traceability is a load of horse burgers.

    1. Did you read the article?

      The FSA said: “We have no evidence to suggest that this is a food safety risk. However, the FSA has ordered Findus to test the lasagne for the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, or ‘bute’.”

      Animals treated with phenylbutazone are not allowed to enter the food chain as it may pose a risk to human health.

      Also, it’s a labeling thing. If they’re going to sell horse meat lasagne, call it horse meat lasagne.

      1. I have no issue with eating alternative meats. Give anything a try at least once. I often buy meats from Kezie foods who sell wild boar, snake, kangaroo to name a few. So long as I know what it is then I’m happy that I can make an informed choice, and it’s not as if anyone was or will be ill from this. My biggest issue is the little butchers would supply any meat you might have wanted but try getting something remotely non-farm yard from the big bully shops that replaced them and they would kick you out.

    2. The big problem isn’t selling horse meat, it’s selling horse meat as beef.

      Well, that, and that people buy pre-made lasagne, and, even worse, spaghetti bolognese.  I mean, is there a meal that’s easier to cook from scratch than spaghetti bolognese?

      I’m simply adopting the policy: the less processed, the better.

      1. “is there a meal that’s easier to cook from scratch than spaghetti bolognese?”

        real bolognese sauce takes a lot of work and many hours to cook properly.

        1. Yes but the dish known as “spaghetti bolognese” in English speaking nations isn’t. Its also called “spaghetti and meat sauce” and at its simplest is just browned, ground beef and canned tomato sauce. Its typically one of the few dishes even small children can cook. Different dish than “real bolognese” (Ragu alla Bolognese) but intended to  mimic the original. Besides traditional Ragus are time consuming but hardly complex, being essentially a simple braised stew/sauce. 

          1. ahhh, yes, now I remember. the Brits call it “spagbol”. one must account for the butchering (no pun intended) of a fine dish like Bolognese by the British.

          2. I wouldn’t call it a butchering of the dish. There are similar simple meat sauces from Italy they just go by a different name. As they are a different dish, made with a totally different technique. Its more a butchering of the language. What Brits and some Americans call spaghetti bolognese is really just a basic meat based pantry dish of no specific name or regional association. But bolognese is similar enough and sounds fancier.

        2. It might take a long time if properly slowly cooked but at the end of the day it isn’t much work. It’s just a stew, let’s not get all precious about it.

    3. I’m sure that you won’t mind finding out that there’s cum in your clam chowder; it’s just protein after all, and cooked well enough to kill the cooties.

        1. Is that an expression of disgust, or were you so inspired by Antinous’ post that you decided to share a liveblog of your own chowder garnishing experiment?

      1. If you’ve ever looked at the anatomy of a clam, you’d notice that the gonads are in the portion that gets chopped up and put in clam chowder.  So umm… yeah.  There’s probably clam semen in your chowder.

        Creamy, isn’t it?

    4. I have no problem at all with horse meat.  I do have a problem with being sold beef and discovering it’s horse meat.  If they recalled the products, changed the labelling and put it back on the shelf I couldn’t give a hoot.

      It’s very important that you are buying what you were sold.  There’s all sorts of issues at play here, consumer choice & awareness, potentially fraud, the list goes on.  The matter that it is horse is irrelevant imo.

      1. Yes, my grocer lied to me about what he was selling me, but it was only the one lie, so no worries, eh?

    5.  For the many who think of horses as pets, myself included, being told after the fact that a product is horse is pretty horrifying. If it’s that hard to wrap your brain around people not wanting to eat horse, feel free to substitute ‘cat’ or ‘dog’ or for some variety ‘chimpanzee’ in place of horse.

      1. I don’t understand. Why is it ok to eat a cow, but not a cat or a dog or a horse or a chimp? They’re all just meat aren’t they?

    6. People have food taboos.  I know I do.  Horse isn’t one of them for me — I’ve had horse and liked it — but cat is.  I’d never knowingly eat cat (barring an emergency situation), even though I am given to understand that it is similar to rabbit, which I have eaten and enjoyed.  People categorize animals, and have taboo animals which are outside of their foodways.

      It causes emotional and psychological distress to find out that you have inadvertently broken a cultural or religious taboo.  Therefore, people with a cultural taboo against eating horse will be distressed to discover that they have eaten horse.  This is natural, and human.

      You are stating that you, personally, do not share a particular food taboo.  Okay, great.  Good for you.  There exists a thing that you can eat that people with that food taboo can’t.

      But one thing that societies do is set up safeguards and rules that help protect people from breaking those taboos which are most nearly universal within the society.  There are times and situations in which taboos should be challenged, because they are practically, ethically, or morally problematic — but this isn’t one of them.  Anti-horsemeat food taboos are harmless.  And this is a case in which the mechanism in place to prevent a taboo-breach failed.

  2. What are they feeding to the horses? Other horses? If not, then it might be safer than actual British beef.

  3. Man, this is just like that time I went to a French seafood restaurant and found out their “fruits de mer” was actual mare.

  4. Reminds me of an old statistics joke…
    A French merchant was selling rabbit  sandwiches at a roadside stand…  When asked how he could afford to sell them so inexpensively, he replied “I must admit that that they are a 50:50 mix of horse and rabbit meat: one rabbit and one horse”

  5. There is so much wrong with our food production and seeing this horse meat scandal escalate, I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Where I live (The Netherlands) most food packaging is just unreadable. I pay attention to ingredients and cooking instructions but if I want to read some labels I kid you not, I take a photo with my phone and then zoom in to actually be able to read the micro fonts. And I am not shortsighted, it’s just that the labels are made that way, I suppose to either cut costs or discourage informed consumption. Most people (and I include myself in this to some extent), do not choose what they eat, they are just being fed. And there is a world of difference between making a conscious decision of eating horse meat and being fed horse meat. Mass food production strives by removing our agency in this regard. 

    1. Considering that you’re in the EU shouldn’t the label mostly consist of E-Numbers anyway?

      That’s one of the things I miss since I moved to North America, at least with the E-Numbers they can’t hide the ingredient behind a different sounding name like they do here. The numbers are also great because you quickly memorize the most common ones and now with smart phones you can quickly look up what else is in there.

  6. Damn sight healthier eating horse than it is eating ‘mechanically recovered’ meat parts (ie gristle, eyeballs, bone scrapings, intestines etc) and ‘pink slime’ products. I don’t understand the squeamish reaction to horse meat by anglophones – here in SW France, most towns have a ‘Boucherie chevaline’ and my favorite butcher stall at my local Saturday market does a roaring trade in horse steaks as well as in wonderful pork, lamb and charcuterie. I do agree about the labeling issue though.

    1. How do we know this horse ‘meat’ isn’t mechanically recovered horse, pink horse slime, horse eyeballs?

      This isn’t a case of high quality cheval being used, it’s Dobbin being chucked in the grinder after he’s knackered instead of going to the glue factory.

      It’s symptomatic of a complete lack of control in the food chain, even post BSE.

      1. In The Netherlands, a few months ago, they tested a number of snacks (you know, the typical “mystery meat” fare) and they found a good percentage of them was indeed, manufactured with mechanically recovered horse. And, as I mentioned in a comment upthread, due to the fact that most labels are unreadable, consumers were unaware of it. At least, eating horse meat is not taboo here (it’s sold in butchers, like in France) so it wasn’t a big scandal but many people were pissed off that they weren’t properly informed about the contents of their snacks.

    2. Seems like I was recently reading about some scandal where North American horses were ending up in the European food chain, despite having been racehorses that had been doped to the eyeballs with various performing enhancing drugs that weren’t supposed to be consumed by humans.  
      Also of course is the issue that horse meat sells for less than beef, and substituting one for the other becomes a dishonest way of increasing profits.

  7. ‘U.K. “beef lasagne” made entirely of horse meat’

    Shhhhhh – not so loud. They’ll all want some.

  8. I was born and raised in the south of Chile, where the relation with horse meat is, apparently, similar to France:  in my hometown there are, still, two “Equine” butcher shops, that sell only horse meat. That doesn´t mean people would accept it happily instead of beef if they’re are not told it is horse, but I guess it won’t be a big scandal. There’s even this common belief that horse meat has less “bad” cholesterol, so it’s actually healtier (?). My grandma used to say that horses were “clean” and only eat from clear pastures and drank clear water…

    Of course this has nothing to do with industrialized production where they put all kind of drugs in the poor animals… I understand the issue better now, and sure, there’s a reason for people to be concerned about what are they being fed…

    1. The dislike for horse meat is purely an Anglophone thing, it runs deep in Canada as well. Dont’ tell anybody out here in BC that you enjoy a good horse steak, they’re ready to carve you up.

      Not quite sure where this originates from. I have been told it’s “cultural”, apparently Brits (and by extension their North American offshots) seem to have a kind of magical relationship with horses, or at least they do today, I am pretty sure 100 years ago nobody would have thought twice of eating horse.

      1. The distaste for horse meat seems to stem from the UK’s Celtic ancestry. We’ve been drawing giant horses on hillsides for at least 3000 years http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uffington_White_Horse and Epona, the Gallo-Roman goddess of the horse, was very big here. With large areas of the country lacking usefully navigable rivers the horse was really the only way to travel any distance and so horses became seen as tools rather than lunch. Horses also require about twice the amount of grazing than cattle (a cow’s three stomachs beats the horse’s one) and so growing horses for meat is inefficient when grazing is limited, as it is in much of the UK (even in historical times).

        All that aside, the real issue is one of traceability of meat. All horses in the UK (and EU) must have a passport and one of the sections in that states whether or not the horse may ever enter the human food chain. If it may then the range of drugs that may be administered to the horse is limited. Horses near the ends of their lives are often given quite large does of phenylbutazone (“bute”) to reduce pain from arthritis and the like and this drug may be dangerous to humans. If horses are being used as “beef” then the likelyhood that the conditions of the passport have been met is slim.


        1. Interesting.

          On the continent horses were also seen as tools but also as food. I guess one related differently to it, or maybe it’s a modern myth that sort of tries to apply modern morals / customs onto ancient history?

          Either way, the only part of Canada where horse is readily available is Quebec, I guess the French tradition.

      2. in England, London specifically there were lots of horse butcher shops. Spoke to somebody who grew up around elephant & castle about 70 years ago and these shops were all along harper road apparently.

  9. You’d think cows would be cheaper than horses.. Do they have a lot of old lame horses they are trying to get rid of in France??

    1. The market for recreational horses has collapsed along with the EU economies and so horses can be picked up for essentially nothing nowadays.

  10. headline is wrong. “up to 100%” does not equal entirely. “Up to” are weasel words usually depriving a sentence of any semantic meaning.

    1. While your general point does often apply…

      The meat of some beef lasagne products recalled by Findus earlier this week was 100% horsemeat, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said.

  11. I detect a certain amount of feigned anger and surprise in the media. We should not be surprised. Packaged food is considerably cheaper than fresh food and notwithstanding the savings from preservability of processed foods, shouldn’t added value normally increase the cost to the consumer? Isn’t the real problem the decreasing level of investment of time and money in food production and consumption over the past forty years?
    The reduction in the relative price of food has not come from investment in the food industry. Producers can only lie if there are people prepared to believe them.

  12. As a frenchman, I can tell that a very few of us eat horse meat… As far as I’m concern, I never ate (intentionally I mean) horse. And I swear that I never ever ate unicorn meat.

    1. Since it’s made from animals which were neither raised for food nor hunted in the wild for food, there’s no guarantee that it meets food safety standards.

  13. I would love to see some sort of thinking expert (no, not you, Aaron) come to each comment thread and delineate the error in each comment. It would make for fascinating and instructional reading.

  14. Okay, real talk?
    I ate some lasagnia from these people last month. Moral implications of selling one meat as another aside, that shit was downright succulent.

    I dont know what happy end there is to this, but apparently horse lasagnia is goddamn delicious. A meal fit for a khal.

  15. Findus, Aldi’s Today’s Special, Tesco Everyday Value, Iceland, Lidl. You didn’t really think their branded “beef” products contained prime-steak ground-beef did you? If you’re a customer for those products, you probably try not to think too hard about what you’re eating.  But you do hope that it’s tested and less likely to kill you (or at least taste marginally better) than Pedigree Chum.

    Nice to see this being spun into a story about how weird those Europeans are with their funny foods. I’m only surprised the class angle above hasn’t really been raised except by implication.

    Can we work this into a story about the CAP, EU subsidies to Poland and excessive funding by the UK of the EU € trillions budget? Surely there must be something in there about illegal immigrant benefit cheat gipsies in mobile caravans in modern day human slavery as well? Won’t anyone think of the poor little Irish ponies?

  16. Given the state of the world, the lack of empathy so many of us have for our fellow human beings, the strange and sad “kick” way too many of us seem to get out of being malicious for the sheer sake of maliciousness, and the overall lack of accountability and personal responsibility-taking (from the individual level on up to the corporate one), I wouldn’t be at all surprised if much of the “beef” we’ve been eating (especially in fast food, but also in supermarket chain “quick and easy” processed meals like the one above) for the last decade or so turned out to be human flesh.  I think about it every day.  It would not surprise me one little bit.  Which is kinda sad.

Comments are closed.