Horse Meat, Yay or Neigh?

photo by flickr user Gerard Stolk (vers le Midi-Careme)

By Brian Chekal

It was a stunning discovery. The burgers that clueless Americans were happily chewing on moments before were suddenly cast aside and examined by concerned eyes, blown up behind the gigantic magnifying glasses that were suddenly in everyone's hands. The cries of the public and the shrieking of the media were nothing less than shocking, all the more so given the fact that finding small traces of horsemeat in mass market fast foods was anything but. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that not finding out sooner would be the only thing worth being surprised over.

It has been years since we have noticed something amiss in the way we process and consume fast foods; its swift and mechanical production of food was in stark contrast with the pictures of carefree Sunday barbeques that we had come to associate with the burger. Countless health advocates and "insiders" warned of the disgusting and even dangerous substitutes that were being mixed into meals and served as beef. However, we continued to chomp away, ignoring the fact that within our weekly indulgences and cheap lunches were numerous plastics and synthetic chemicals. We as a society have pulled the wool over our eyes, giving the likes of McDonalds and Burger King record profits as they continue to slowly poison us. No, nothing can justify something like this, but the extent to which the popular media and the general public have reacted, with chaos and cries for boycotting, has gone beyond what is necessary. Yes, we should try to avoid eating fatty fast foods and chemical-laced meats, but haven’t we been hearing that for ages now? If anything, we should use this opportunity to focus on what we are eating. Horsemeat pales in comparison to the things we have unconsciously been eating. Upon deeper inspection we realize that what we see as being pure ground beef is, in reality, made of half beef substitutes, and filled up with harmless flavor agents, such as flour and onion powder, as well as purely ridiculous ones such as the plastics that are the main components of rubber gym mats.

Health advocates have been directing us to move towards healthier alternatives yet have not done anything to provide those alternatives. We need this opportunity, not to merely chastise the big fast food outlets and move on, as we have been doing for too long, but to use this sudden interest in what we are eating to draw attention to the other, more dangerous parts of our consumption. A boycott does nothing except make these companies more hungry for profits. We must tackle what lies at the heart, the absence of healthier alternatives for those of us most at risk.