Big business is bad news for good food - and horse meat may be the least of our problems

Much of the water-logged frozen chicken used in supermarket ready meals is imported from Brazil and Thailand

Share
Related Topics

So far, the hunt for the source of fake 'beef' has taken us on a dizzying trans-European tour, first to Ireland, then Poland, via France, and from there to Romania, Cyprus, Holland and France, by way of Luxembourg. Why this crazily long and complicated supply chain, when British beef is world renowned and widely available?

Blame the supermarkets. They bang on about offering best quality and supporting British farmers, yet when they put out to tender specifications for convenience products, they won't pay a decent, realistic price for them. So, to secure their business, food manufacturers come in with the lowest price then figure out how to make the sums add up, usually by reducing costs.

In this race-to-the-bottom system, it makes commercial 'sense' for food processors to bypass higher quality, UK-based suppliers, and buy for less from lower cost countries, using a series of sub-contractors. This is why, for instance, much of the water-logged frozen chicken used in supermarket ready meals is imported from Brazil and Thailand, and why North Sea prawns caught by UK trawlers are sent to China for shelling.

This globalised buying system not only encourages fraud and adulteration but also presents opportunities for it. Who can tell if they're eating beef, horse, donkey, or even dog, when it's reconstituted with water, fillers and additives and looking plausible, in a supermarket-endorsed box?

We must begin to relocalise our food chain, and that means breaking the supermarkets' vice-like grip on it, which has exactly the opposite effect. If we continue to rely on faceless people in faraway places to feed us, we cannot hope to trace the provenance of what's on our plates, or be assured of its wholesomeness. In the future, horse meat may be the least of our problems.

Joanna Blythman's books include 'Bad Food Britain – How a Nation Ruined its Appetite'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Property

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: KENT MARKET TOWN - An exciting new role has ar...

Financial Accountants, Cardiff, £250 p/day

£180 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountants - Key Banking...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Day In a Page

 

Careful, Mr Cameron. Don't flirt with us on tax

Chris Blackhurst
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices