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Should We Only Buy British Meat After The Horse Meat Scandal?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock that’s covered under a thick layer of sand that lies 10,000 feet under the sea then you’ve no doubt heard of that horse meat scandal that’s been the talking point of the UK media for a few weeks now. Here’s a quick recap though; horse meat has been found in a range of products that have made their way onto supermarket shelves – sometimes up to 90% horse meat! The problem is that these products were advertised as beef when they clearly aren’t, and obviously that’s riled up a lot of consumers.

Horse meat may be a common delicacy across Europe, but it’s not something we’d really consider eating here in the UK and I suppose it could almost be seen as taboo. This is reflected in a survey carried out by Consumer Intelligence that suggests as much as 21% of UK consumers have started buying less meat, while 24% said they would buy less processed meat. 19% want to make the switch but cannot afford to do so, while a whopping 62% said they now have less trust in food labels.

All this wariness about what we’re actually eating isn’t going to do the meat industry any favours, at least not for the big national chains anyway. So, is it time for UK consumers – and even businesses – to turn away from imported meat and instead buy meats that have been produced within our shores? The NFU (National Farmers Union) thinks it is and has launched a ‘Buy British’ campaign to support local produce, farmers and butchers. This gives British products the Red Tractor logo, telling consumers that the meat is traceable and independently inspected at all stages of its production and that “our meat industry is one of the most highly regulated in the country”.

Let’s face it, we’ve all got used to buying cheap meat in supermarkets and in their drive to supply this supermarkets have gone further afield to make sure meat remains affordable for the common consumer. Local butchers, on the other hand, are now seen as more expensive, although are still regarded as supplying quality cuts of meat for the higher price. With the economy the way it is it’s not hard to see why people want to buy meat for cheaper, but when you’re looking for meat to sizzle up on the barbecue it may be a better option to head for your local butchers instead of your local Tesco.

Obviously that’s not to say that all meat in the supermarkets is derived from a horse, and I’m also not saying that you can’t get quality meat in the supermarket because you can; it’s simply that your local butcher could use a lot more support than a supermarket that rakes in billions every year, and you’ll also be getting some quality tasty cuts out of it too. Local businesses are often under threat from supermarkets that now seem to offer seemingly everything from mops to home insurance. Buying your meat from butchers not only supports these shops, but also the usually local farmers that have provided the meat. As the NFU points out, these farmers stick to a stringent set of high quality standards, the same can’t be guaranteed for imported meat.

The NFU is also urging supermarkets to throw their weight behind quality assurance schemes to regain consumer confidence, and even if all this means that we as consumers end up paying more for our meat in the future if supermarkets look closer to home for meat; at least it means that you’ll be assured of its quality, support local farmers and businesses and give the UK economy the boost it needs. It’s definitely something to think about when you’re planning your next barbecue, and not be wondering if you’re accidentally cooking up a horse.

So throw some tasty British meat on the gas barbecue grill instead (check out some of our scrumptious recipes here).