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Hold Your Horses!

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I have just come back from the FARMA (The National Farmers' Retail and Markets' Association) annual conference and was once again highly impressed by the professionalism and passion of the UK's farm food entrepreneurs.

Make no mistake, the horsemeat issue was a hot topic. My favourite take on it was one farmer who has sign-written a huge banner in his field promoting his beef burgers "No horsing around!!"

But aside of the banter, there is a serious message.

These farmers have spent their lifetimes providing quality food with full provenance. Some of them produce their own ready meals on the premises, using the same high quality produce that they sell in their shops - proper ready meals, not "Neddy meals" as one of them memorably tweeted last week.

The real underlying issue is that food producers and retailers have completely lost sight of the issue of proper food traceability and ethics. Why are we buying meat products on such a global scale? Why are there so many middle men involved in the supply chain? If producers and retailers aren't even able to make proper claims about the species contained in their products, how can they possibly claim they care about traceability?

This is all being built up as a criminal issue and, of course, there is an element of this, but these criminal gangs have only been able to exploit the situation because of the lack of care in traceability exercised by the people providing our food.

We are also waiting to hear about the potential health issues. I have horses which all have passports, required by law in the UK, which I have signed to attest that the horse will never be killed for meat. This means that my vet can treat them with any drug they may need to keep them healthy, confident that these powerful drugs will never enter the food chain to endanger human health. Do they have the same laws elsewhere in Europe? I don't know the answer to this question.

These farm producers have faced difficult competition from the supermarkets and have been accused of being expensive, not true in my personal experience. But now we know the real price of cheap processed foods!

So where can consumers buy with confidence without needing a DNA testing kit? With the real guardians of food traceability and provenance, local farm retailers and local butchers, of course. It seems that many consumers have worked this out and sales at farm shops and real butchers are rising fast. Long may it continue.

Around the Web

Horse meat - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

What's So Bad About Horse Meat, Anyway? - Businessweek

Europe's Horse Meat Scandal Casts Light on Food Taboo

What's behind the horsemeat contamination scandal? - CNN.com

Horsemeat scandal set to spur tougher EU food tests | Reuters

Horse Meat Scandal: Is the Era of Cheap Food Over?

Horsemeat Auctions? Horses Sold For As Low As $50 In Shocking California ...

Horse Meat Found in British Food

UK: Tainted horsemeat may be in French food chain

French: Spanghero to blame for horsemeat fraud