Monday, February 04, 2013

It takes two hooves to handle a Whopper…

I’m not sure if it’s still there – need to know basis, only – but years ago the Harvard Faculty Club had an item on it called “the famous horse steak”. When I first espied it on the menu – the one and only time I dined at this esteemed establishment – I thought it was a typo for “house steak.” But indeed, no. Those Harvard profs actually enjoyed supping on Trigger, Man o’ War, Sea Biscuit, and Mr. Ed.

In truth, I don’t know why the thought of eating horse is so much more abhorrent than the thought of eating beef, but there it is. Horse meat sounds like it would be tough, sinewy, stallion-strong in flavor. Plus horses seem higher-order than cattle for some reason: noble, handsome, grand.

Unless they’re in 4-H, pre-teen girls don’t fall in love with cows. No one writes novels extolling the bovine of the animal family. No TV shows. No movies. No National Velvet. No My Friend Flicka. No Fury. No brainy plays written about horses. We get Equus, not Bovinae.

Something there is that doesn’t love a horse steak, or a horse slider, or horse chili.

So, although I probably eat at Burger King once a year, or thereabouts, I am still relieved that BK will be DNA testing its meat to make sure they’re all beef patties, not partial horse patties.

Details for DNA testing have not been worked out, and no timeline has been set for implementing the new procedures, says Diego Beamonte, Burger King’s vice president of global quality. Burger King will test specifically for equine DNA following revelations that food processor Silvercrest Foods sold beef products containing horse meat to other retailers, including Tesco. Both companies have severed ties with Silvercrest, and Tesco has also said it will do DNA testing on all of its meat products. (Source: Business Week.)

Hi, ho Silvercrest!

The ground equine had slipped into the Silvercrest supply chain through use of a non-approved Polish supplier. They were supposed to be using approved British and Irish all-beef producers. Tsk, tsk. BK claims that the horsey set had never been served horse in its august establishments – the potentially impacted stores were in Ireland, the UK, and Denmark - but it’s testing just to be on the safe side. No horsing around for BK!

As it turns out, Silvercrest is part of the ABP Food Group, which is headquartered in County Louth, Ireland, which is where my grandmother Rogers’ family – the Trainors – hailed from.

Paul Finnerty, ABP Food Group CEO said: “We have learnt important lessons from this incident and we are determined to ensure that this never happens again”.

We have already implemented total management change at the Silvercrest facility – which remains closed. We also have effected a Group Re-organisation to better manage our Convenience foods business. We have put in place new procedures to audit all our third party suppliers. We have also established comprehensive DNA testing procedures – we will become an industry leader in this area. (ABP Food Group.)

Industry leader in DNA testing has a nice futuristic ring to it, does it not?

Anyway, Silvercrest is located in Ballybay, County Monaghan, a town – and for most a county – that no one’s heard of. Its claims to fame, if we take Wikipedia’s words for it (and there’s no reason not to) include it being the birthplace of “Kevin 'Big Bad' Barry McSkeane born 15 April 1974. Ulster Straw-Weight Boxing Champion 1985.” As claims to fame go, having an 11 year old boxer topping the list is even sorrier than being known as the home of the company that added a bit of horse helper to its hamburger. (Ballybay’s second note of fame was that Tommy Makem, the Irish folksinger, once wrote a song about it.)

In a country where unemployment is running close to 15%, and where food is the principal export (other than, alas, its young), a plant closing – even if it’s temporary – can’t be welcome news.

Hopefully, Silvercrest will be back in the saddle soon.

Not that eating a bit of horse is going to kill anyone. Or that, with enough ketchup on it, you could tell one way or another that you were eating it.

Still, the very thought of if does leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Just say “neigh” to horse meat.

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