Here in Britain there’s an outcry about evidence of horse meat and pig meat in beefburgers.
The evidence is DNA evidence. It was found using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) which I mentioned recently when quoting what Owen Paterson, our Environment Secretary, said about bovine tuberculosis. You can use PCR to detect particular DNA sequences. In the beefburgers, PCR detected horse sequences and pig sequences.
I think this is quite a good thing, in a way. Of course I don’t want to eat meat without knowing which species it’s from. Of course I don’t want people to be tricked into eating species they don’t want to eat. What’s good about this story is the way it’s got people thinking about where their food comes from. Ordinary people can be shockingly ignorant about that. I heard an anecdote about a teacher asking British schoolchildren where bacon comes from, and being told that it comes from Tesco’s. Understandable from a child’s perspective. Unhelpful from a farmer’s perspective.
Bulking out food with cheap ingredients isn’t new. Here’s what the Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI) says about horse in burgers and the long tradition of adulterating food.