William Chase: If you must buy really cheap meat, you'd better not ask what's in it

Midweek View: The obvious solution is to totally avoid all processed food, particularly ready meals and tinned meat
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Gluttony has caused the horse meat scandal. People wanting too much of everything. Driven by survival anxiety, consumers seek a volume of everything in their scurrying shopping trolleys.

"Best" isn't in the ingredients, it's in the price, according to the average consumer. There's no stopping the angry crowd trampling a supermarket underfoot whose three-for-one isn't better than the other – driving the overpriced out of business.

So then the supermarkets fuel the crowd's hysteria with millions of pounds of TV advertising and "own-labels" that play to the "price hungry" consumer like a gladiator in a lion's den. Of course there's going to be casualties when for 20 years now, supermarkets have been playing this losing game.

With this latest flash-in-the-pan news story about two abattoirs selling horse meat, school ground politics has ensued with Sainsbury's and Morrison's sniggering that they didn't do it Sir, whilst Tesco, Aldi, Asda, Sodexo, Lidl, Co-op, Rangeland and Iceland take much of the blame.

The ready-meal producers all seem to be under fire. Findus was out in front, but they're now joined up the pass by Bird's Eye with their Traditional Spaghetti Bolognese and Beef Lasagne, Taco Bell's Ground Beef and catering supplier Brakes with their Spicy Beef Skewer.

Who could believe it when Ikea got done the other day for dishing up horse meat meatballs after tests in the Czech Republic showed they were also guilty of the crime against gastronomy?

What precisely do you think is in that Findus frozen lasagne at £1.29? It can't be the same stuff that sells at a premium. We've been kidding ourselves. Operating in a double-think. It can't be normal beef at £1 and still make a profit. So what is it? We don't want to know.

British culture has become completely dependent on prepack food, with quality food being right down the list of priorities. France is top of the list.

You can hardly argue that while their parents were away the factories processed all this horse meat. Right across Europe. Come on.

The point of all this is that we don't need to stuff our faces with so much meat. It isn't medically recommended. With over a third of Britons clinically obese and rising, it would be a good idea to eat a whole lot less.

But then people will argue that the hunger pain has got to be alleviated with something. Soya doesn't cut it. Vegetables and fruit don't cut it. It's got to be the flesh of animals.

So be it, but if we all pause and slow down, then we consume a lot less. Remember the pace and purpose of the BBC programme The Good Life and slow down; we won't be in such a rush to put the supermarkets in a position where they have to take a stick to suppliers to deliver cheaper and cheaper produce each year.

Unfortunately what's likely to happen is that out of the glare of the news media spotlight, the supermarkets will start getting back to their old tricks because the price-conscious consumer demands it. There'll be all sorts of non DNA-tested animals in the burgers which we simply don't have the money or resource to test for.

It's a bit rich that the Labour Party have been crying foul over this whole sorry affair and tried political bandwagonning when it was they who put a stop to the DNA testing of food in 2003. Then in 2006 they put a stop to inspecting food processing plants. So, Labour on this issue has no credibility.

But it's a supermarket culture that we've brought on ourselves.

As a British farmer from Hereford, I value and relish the quality meat products I purchase from the local butchers and only hope that this trickles down to the mainstream sometime soon. But I very much doubt it.

Supermarkets did a massive clean-up in the 1990s, but since then have taken the efficiency and CAP surpluses on too far to the detriment of safety to remain the cheapest.

The obvious solution, while the supermarkets try to get their shop in order, is to totally avoid all processed food, particularly ready meals and tinned meat. Try eating fresh meat that actually looks like beef, pork, lamb or chicken.

But if the public still want a pack sausages for 50p and chicken for £1 and cheap beef, don't ask what's in it.

William Chase is the founder of Chase Vodka and Tyrrells Crisps