The 'horsegate' story is set to run and run.
It gives me no pleasure to say 'told you so' but I've argued for years that the industrialisation of agriculture, in order to get the cheapest food, results in ever lower quality standards.
Instead governments and consumers should have supported smaller scale pig farmers who are, in general, more efficient, more environmentally aware and have higher standards of animal husbandry and welfare. Lobbied by agi industry, our national and European leaders have supported the giant agri-industrial companies who make vast profits out of the increased intensity of farming.
Last month, authorities in Ireland analysed supermarket beef burgers and found that they contained meat from horses and pigs. Now there are almost daily revelations of horse meat in processed meat products, along with a grudging admission by the food industry that the supply chain is so long, confused and difficult to monitor that there are likely to be a lot more discoveries of equine meat where we were told it was bovine. Nothing wrong with eating horse meat if it is labelled as such and has been passed all the checks to ensure it is safe for human consumption and so doesn't contain the pain killer called bute that, in high enough quantities, can cause aplastic anaemia, bone marrow failure.
Muslims and Jews will be shocked to know that Waitrose have taken their meatballs off the shelves because they discovered some of the beef was pork. That shows the scale of the mess we're in.
Horse meat or pig meat found in 'beef' products highlights the weaknesses of a globalised system of meat production and distribution in which supermarkets demand the cheapest products to get the biggest profit margins. When meat for processed food was no longer allowed to contain desinewed meat (DSM) - scraps recovered from animal carcasses - suppliers, in order to retain their contracts with the supermarkets, bought the cheapest possible meat which we now know to be horse or factory farmed pork from dubious slaughterhouses with little monitoring or control.
Although supermarkets have promised better quality control, consumers will continue to be misled until meat is labelled with the country of origin and whether it was produced in an intensive factory farm.
Consumers in the UK who want this harmful method of producing food to stop must look for labels saying outdoor bred and reared, free range or organic. Pork with these labels has been raised on high welfare farms, almost certainly in the UK, which means the animals have not been given routine doses of antibiotics to keep them alive in stressful, overcrowded factory farms.
Shoppers can also find high welfare pork at farmers' markets or traditional butchers who can vouch for the origin of their meat. Buying in this transparent way ensures that the pig has not been tortured before you eat it, that you are paying a fair price and that your money stays in the locality, thus helping to preserve our farming skills and vibrant rural communities.
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