The past week or so has led to comments all over the news, Facebook, Twitter, coffee shop gossip, you name it over the most recent horse meat ‘scandal’. ‘It’s unsanitary!’ ‘Inhumane!’ ‘Cruel!’ are but some of the phrases that I hear the most and this is the issue – what I’m hearing is outcries that horse meat is inappropriate for human consumption. Not only is this utter nonsense but it completely avoids the real issue at hand which is of course, false advertisement and according to ‘The Sales Of Goods Act 1979’ the law clearly states ‘’Where there is a contract for the sale of goods by description, there is an implied that the goods will correspond with the description’’ . In this case, the case of Findus’ ‘Beef’ Lasagne is clearly not sold as advertised, as horse meat is not on the label and the implied product should be predominantly beef based. The ethics of eating horse meat are completely irrelevant to the matter and purely based on an individuals’ own perception which in this country will clearly be influenced primarily from the domestication of horses and our views towards them commonly being that of affection. Personally I wouldn’t eat a canine as I’ve grown up with them all my life, however this has no impact on the nutritional value or appropriateness of judgement on whether they are indeed suitbale for human consumption.
There are other issues that have been raised too, namely the use of drugs within the horses themselves of which there are two main concerns; Clenbuterol and Phenylbutazone, both of which have a very short half-life (in horses, Clenbuterol: 10 hours, Phenylbutazone: 5-6 hours). This begs the question of the relevance of the quantities of the drug actually present in the meat once it is processed and by the time it hits the end consumer, and whether or not any sort of physiological side effects would be observed. Secondly there is no guarantee that these drugs have actually been used in the horses from which the meat going into these ‘tainted’ products was obtained as they are only used in the case of asthma (Clenbuterol – Bronchodilator) related diseases or to reduce pain (Phenylbutazone – Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory). Thirdly, there is the question of whether or not heat has an effect on the total quantity or bioavailability of the drugs themselves.
The side of the story that isn’t talked about is the real nutritional value of horse meat. Personal ethics and incorrect advertising issues aside, horse meat has one of the best nutritional profiles along with some of the best food economy of any food. For starters horse meat is around half the fat of beef, roughly only 5% with around 22g of protein per 100g servings making it far easier for those who would usually restrict red meat to integrate it into their diet. Secondly horse has around twice the iron content of beef, significantly higher levels of Vitamin B12 (cellular metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids making it important for energy regulation and protein assimilation, also essential in production of blood cells in bone marrow, nerve sheaths and their proteins) and an astonishing 15x the Omega-3 concentrations as that of beef!
I’ll conclude with an old phrase which I’m sure most of you have come across – don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Or, in this case the cover most mass media has so kindly given it. As with any matter, conclusions should be made objectively rather than subjectively with at least some attempt to research the facts, rather than getting caught up in ‘Chinese Whispers’ and false testimony.
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