Neigh bother?/Horses for courses

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Rorschach
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Neigh bother?/Horses for courses

Post by Rorschach » Fri Feb 08, 2013 12:57 pm

So there's been a bit of scandal in the UK of late with burgers from a well-known supermarket, and - hilariously - Burger King, being found to contain horsemeat.

Today finds Findus's Beef Lasagne to be anything but, in this rather simplified summary of events. It hasn't been mentioned here but earlier reports found that some Tesco's beefburgers also contained pork. The Muslim community are unlikely to be impressed.

Whilst not Earth-shattering in itself, it engendered an interesting conversation this morning between Nicola and me. Do you care what kind of animal you're eating? I mean, obviously, you don't want lied to. If you think you're paying for beef then you want beef but do you have any major moral objection to eating horse? Nicola, being tiresomely vegetarian, thinks this is one in the eye for meat-eaters but I don't think I'd care what the animal is as long as it tasted alright and I wasn't eating its cock without its implied consent, given with a gentle 'neigh', and permission in its shining eyes in the secret darkness of a cosy barn.

Also, what kind of animals have you eaten? I know there's at least one hunter on the forum, running, blood-soaked and naked through the woods like an aroused Wolverine and I can understand why killing your own well-cared for meat is better than buying some poor miserable cow bred to have five rumps or whatever.

So: where would you draw the line and where have you drawn the line?
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Re: Neigh bother?/Horses for courses

Post by Deacon » Fri Feb 08, 2013 3:41 pm

I've eaten all manner of animals. Some are great, some are OK, but most of the time it's down to preparation. The things most people find "disgusting" are due to cultural norms and mental blocks, not fitness for consumption. If I ask someone if they want to kill and eat a pigeon, they'll probably make a face and back away slowly. If I ask someone if they want to sit down to dinner at a fancy French restaurant and have a nice squab dish, they'll probably say, "Mmm! Sounds good!" I've asked people before if they wanted some cuts from a wild boar I shot. The answer was strongly in the negative, though they managed to stop short of expletives. I asked the same people if they'd like some free-range, organic, cruelty free, corn-fed, lean, hormone- and steroid-free pork, and they were not just interested but excited. So I prepared a couple of pork steaks from the wild pig, and they enjoyed it mightily. Hell, there are still people who turn their nose up at the magic that is sushi.

Human beings are survivalist omnivores. Out of necessity, our ancestors ate and we evolved to handle a very wide variety of meats and plants. Today in prosperous countries we way outdo ourselves, with a rather unbalanced diet compared to where we came from, because we have plenty and can indulge our desires rather than confine ourselves to what may be the optimal mix for bodies, like dog chow for our pets. We like to live well, enjoy ourselves, and have a great variety of fantastically tasteful meals. Unless you're following some arbitrary limitations imposed thousands of years ago by power-hungry men inventing invisible sky wizards to control their subjects and show superiority by imagining a source for basic scientific phenomenon they otherwise didn't understand.

With that said, personally I think the bigger question raised by these kinds of kerfuffles is less meat content (as in most cases we're talking about traces, not significant amounts) and more questions raised regarding cross-contamination and the cleaning procedures used at the processing facilities. If you're processing pork one day and beef the next, the same surfaces, knives, tools, machines, etc, are perfectly suitable for use on both, but they must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized between jobs. Mostly this isn't a problem. But in the case of Burger King at least, they put out a press release saying one of their suppliers was sourcing beef from an eastern European supplier that was not approved, violating the terms of the contract, and that supplier has therefore been fired. I can see that. But they named neither the source nor the supplier (to avoid legal battles I'm sure), which makes it hard for people to be aware of what's coming from where.

It's not that I don't care what kind of meat I'm eating. I've eaten lots of different "exotic" meats (antelopes, zebra, crocodile, alligator, etc) along with anything that moves in the ocean and is available on the menu, wherever in the world I find myself at the time. I love to try new foods, especially if anyone else at the table furrows their brow and wrinkles their nose at it. Most of the time it actually turns out pretty well. Occasionally there will be something I don't really care for, but hey, how will you know if you don't try it? So it's not that I don't care, but I definitely prefer to know that the source and preparers of the produce, meat, vegetables, spices, and any other ingredients are taking the proper measures to ensure cleanliness, prevent cross-contamination, and as a result make sure that what I'm eating is actually what I believe I'm eating.

And yes, there are few healthier (and in many cases tastier) options than free-range game you've taken, cleaned, processed, stored, and prepared yourself. At least you know exactly what you're getting, which is often lean, delicious meat with no artificial anything :)
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Rorschach
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Re: Neigh bother?/Horses for courses

Post by Rorschach » Fri Feb 08, 2013 7:10 pm

Deacon wrote:With that said, personally I think the bigger question raised by these kinds of kerfuffles is less meat content (as in most cases we're talking about traces, not significant amounts) and more questions raised regarding cross-contamination and the cleaning procedures used at the processing facilities.
Can't argue with any of that. Interestingly though, some test cases of Findus Lasagneigh have been found to contain 100% horse. Although if you're eating microwave lasagne anyway, you'd might as well eat horse.

I can't think why we don't eat horse meat. They're domesticated aren't they? We have them on farms and such. They're basically faster cows. I don't see the moral qualms that decides some animals are fit for consumption but others aren't. Surely either they all are or none of them are.

I'd love to be more adventurous when ordering. At the creaky age of 36, I only recently summoned the bravery to order squid. Horrid underwater spiders as they are. It was rubbish. All texture, no flavour.

As we're talking about inter-special consumption anyway, the Glasgow man charged with feeding a police horse a sausage roll has earned himself seven daysof bird. Closure on this story, world. You can sleep now.
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Re: Neigh bother?/Horses for courses

Post by Deacon » Fri Feb 08, 2013 8:44 pm

100% horse? Well that's a little different. That's just straight-up wrong. As far as why not to eat horse, well, yeah, you're making the salient point. However, rationality takes a back seat for most modern, spoiled humans. Too many people think of horses as majestic, romantic animals, either wild mustang stallions on the prairie or man's best friend almost like they would think of Lassie when it comes to dogs. Most of those people don't interact with horses much. In other countries they have absolutely no problem eating horse meat, though it's often viewed as an inferior selection compared to tender, fatty beef. In the US it was often used for dog food or sold by butchers for the purpose of feeding dogs, but it's been a good while since that was common (or even allowed?) around here. There's no rational reason not to, in other words. It's all cultural and/or mental.

You really dislike calamari?
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Re: Neigh bother?/Horses for courses

Post by Rorschach » Mon Feb 11, 2013 12:34 pm

I don't know about disliking it. I just found it underwhelming. I even tried a friend's last night in the spirit of scientific enquiry and just in case it was the one restaurant's fault but same effect. All I taste in it is the batter and the dip. Everything else is just mass in my mouth.

Maybe we just don't do it right and it'd be better somewhere more coastal as I believe is the case with a lot of sea-food.

I was at a grill where I had the opportunity to try a £55 wagyu steak, which I was excited about but by the time we were seated, it was off the menu. :(
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Re: Neigh bother?/Horses for courses

Post by Deacon » Mon Feb 11, 2013 2:05 pm

Most wagyu is overpriced and overrated anyway. I'd say £55 was probably best kept in your pocket :)As far as calamari, I'd be disappointed if the Italian contingent in Scotland didn't come through. Surely you can get some good stuff somewhere nearby. Good calamari doesn't necessarily have to be battered, either, btw. It's just most commonly sold frozen that way so that's what most people are used to.
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Re: Neigh bother?/Horses for courses

Post by Rorschach » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:41 pm

Deacon wrote:Most wagyu is overpriced and overrated anyway. I'd say £55 was probably best kept in your pocket :)
We ended up having that exact discussion last night. I had my doubts that a £55 steak would have been nearly three times as good as the £20 sirloin I ordered and enjoyed.
I suspect there's a bit of overhype and snobbery when it comes to steak. And as one of my friends pointed out: after three or four pints, you're probably not going to be able to tell the difference between a good steak and a very good steak anyway.
I'd be disappointed if the Italian contingent in Scotland didn't come through
The first time was actually in a pretty decent Italian restaurant, and then the general consenses last night was that people enjoyed theirs. Maybe it's just me.
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Re: Neigh bother?/Horses for courses

Post by Martin Blank » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:46 pm

Deacon wrote:However, rationality takes a back seat for most modern, spoiled humans.
It applies to most humans, not just modern and spoiled ones. As soon as one is taken out of their food norms, squeamishness over some foods almost always kicks in. I've read of tribal people who live in jungles and eat grubs, insects, monkeys, and snakes, but can't bring themselves to eat beef or pork when taken to cities.

I'm one of those who is not fond of calamari. I've tried it a couple of times at a couple of different places, and it's just not for me. Same with alligator, chicken hearts, and probably half of the types of sushi I've tried. I'm OK with eating some sushi, but anything too chewy or too soft tends to not sit well with me. I can force it down, but I'm not likely to take another of that kind.
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Re: Neigh bother?/Horses for courses

Post by Deacon » Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:41 pm

Martin Blank wrote:I've read of tribal people who live in jungles and eat grubs, insects, monkeys, and snakes, but can't bring themselves to eat beef or pork when taken to cities.
I've never heard of such a thing, and barring some sort of weird religious thing, I wouldn't have guessed it. I guess beggars can be choosers after all. Either that or in "modern" (read: post-Roman in the west or really the hell old in the east) agricultural societies the food norms are broader in scope, to include nearly every part of nearly every animal out there, etc.

I love food. I realize I don't love all edible objects prepared in every way possible, but I really like to try new things. It's rare I find something I intrinsically dislike absolutely. In fact, I can't really think of anything off the top of my head. I've never really enjoyed mutton kidney, I guess. I've found that at worst most things are "OK" unless straight-up botched by the cook.
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Re: Neigh bother?/Horses for courses

Post by Arres » Tue Feb 12, 2013 4:54 pm

I've tried a couple of interesting sorts of foods, and tell myself that i'm willing to eat anything that some culture somewhere does at least once. I haven't had the well traveled exposure Deacon has, but I have tried both Balut and a Century Egg. I was impressed with neither. I eat any sushi that looks interesting, and have never disliked any of it, although I prefer raw salmon.

I would say that a large part of the squeamishness associated with horse is that they were so terribly useful for so many centuries, and as discussed elsewhere, pets become family members. It's also not ok to grill up Grandpa after he's passed to absorb his spirit.
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Re: Neigh bother?/Horses for courses

Post by Martin Blank » Tue Feb 12, 2013 4:57 pm

Would you eat vat-grown meat?

Moving a step beyond that, would you eat vat-grown human meat?
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Neigh bother?/Horses for courses

Post by Deacon » Tue Feb 12, 2013 5:25 pm

To survive? Sure. But I can't see any particular advantage in eating human meat in the first place and don't know why we'd head in that direction, so I don't really know how if react as it seems so far out in left field even for purely theoretical discussions.
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Re: Neigh bother?/Horses for courses

Post by The Cid » Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:35 pm

Arres wrote:I would say that a large part of the squeamishness associated with horse is that they were so terribly useful for so many centuries, and as discussed elsewhere, pets become family members.
From a BBC News Q&A:
Horsemeat itself should be no more dangerous than beef and is eaten in many countries around the world.

But the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) has ordered tests to make sure a drug given to horses which is dangerous when used by humans - known as bute (phenylbutazone) - has not entered the food chain.

Decades ago it was used as a treatment for gout and arthritis, but it caused a serious blood disorder, aplastic anaemia, in rare cases. While it was banned for human use, it is still used for animals. However, it is not allowed to enter the human food chain.
This is what people seem to be worried about, not so much the act of eating horsemeat.

Aside: I've heard people suggest that, were they not useful to human beings, horses might not even exist anymore. Using the logic these people have given, I tend to agree with them. Is there validity to this line of thinking?
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Re: Neigh bother?/Horses for courses

Post by Deacon » Tue Feb 12, 2013 8:23 pm

That may be what unusually well-informed and rational people are worried about, the possibility of small amounts of a drug known to cause in rare cases a blood disorder, but I think most people BY FAR only go so deep as, "Horse? EW!"

I have no idea whether that logic regarding whether horses exist is sound, other than to point out that there are still pockets of wild horses in existence, and I have no reason to believe they would've died out if not for human intervention. But are you saying that the logical conclusion is that we should eat them? From your post I can't tell what exactly it is you're referring to about "that line of thinking."
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Re: Neigh bother?/Horses for courses

Post by The Cid » Tue Feb 12, 2013 8:45 pm

Deacon wrote:I think most people BY FAR only go so deep as, "Horse? EW!"
Well, that and the fact that the products were advertising beef when it turned out they were feeding their customers horse. That part would alarm me, even if the mislabeling doesn't impact my health.
Deacon wrote:But are you saying that the logical conclusion is that we should eat them? From your post I can't tell what exactly it is you're referring to about "that line of thinking."
Honestly, I should have just not said it and put it in more detail in a thread of its own. There is plenty of science in that topic. I just have trouble thinking of horses at all without considering whether we're keeping them alive.

As for whether we should be eating horse or not, what's the problem there? If it is possible for a human being to eat horsemeat without getting sick from it, then science has already answered that question with a resounding "yeah, sure, knock yourselves out." Horses aren't the most practical animal to use for meat, and I get the impression it wouldn't be particularly tasty, but I see nothing wrong with the idea of eating horsemeat.
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