It began with burgers in Ireland and frozen lasagna in Britain.
Horse meat was found to be passed off as beef in fast food burgers and frozen products across the United Kingdom and France.
British and French governments are promising to punish those involved. And fingers have been pointing to suppliers in Romania, Poland and Sweden.
Consumer confidence in Europe’s food industry has hit a low.
But there is another side to this scandal.
It seems the demand for horse meat has actually increased. So says, Paul Webb of the website Exotic Meats.
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Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman and this is The World. There’s a growing scandal gripping Europe and it has nothing to do with corruption, economic crisis or the euro. It’s about horse meat. It began with burgers in Ireland and frozen lasagna in Britain, which were found to contain horse meat labeled as beef. Similar discoveries in France and other countries followed. Now, British and French governments are promising to punish those involved and suppliers in Romania, Poland and Sweden are under pressure to explain what’s going on. A lot of Europeans are outraged that they were tricked into eating horse meat, which they thought was beef, but there’s another side to this scandal — it’s also boosted demand for horse products. So says Paul Webb, who runs a website in the UK that is devoted to exotic meats. And Paul, first of all, what’s been the net result for horse meat that you’ve witnessed in the wake of this mislabeling scandal?
Paul Webb: From our point of view it’s been excellent. I mean our sales have increased over 1000% over the past month simply because people are interested in trying the meats that we sell, and I believe because of the media attention regarding horse meat.
Werman: Don’t you find that a bit surprising? I mean the way that the scandal’s been played out it’s like how did this horse meat make its way into our precious beef? I mean how do you explain this?
Webb: I think there’s two sides to the story. First of all, it’s a situation where people have started to lose confidence in the people who are supplying these meats. The majority of people in the UK shop at supermarkets on a regular basis, and with these scandals arising they’re looking elsewhere to purchase their meat. And while they’re doing that, instead of being told what to buy by the supermarkets, they’re making their own choices and hence, they’re developing tastes for new meats and seeing new stuff on the market.
Werman: Is there a possibility that horse meat is the future?
Webb: I wouldn’t call it the future. I think there’s a few people out there who are going to eat it nowadays, and I believe that over the past month or so there’s been a lot of interest in horse meat and people who want to try it and know that the stuff they’re getting is actually what they’re getting and not something completely different.
Werman: Your website, ExoticMeats, is a champion of exotic meats, obviously. So make the case for horse meat for our listeners. What’s so great about it?
Webb: Oh, it’s low in fat, very low in fat. It’s very similar in taste to beef, it’s sort of between beef and venison. It’s a fairly sweet meat. It’s better than eating I’d say donkey’s ears, but there’s a bit of a contrary there.
Webb: The Italians eat a lot of it. Fifty percent of all meat eaten in the European community is eaten by Italians and in southern Europe as well, in France. It’s got double the iron of what beef’s got. It’s just very good for you, it’s a healthy meat as well.
Werman: Is horse meat cheaper than beef?
Webb: It is, yes, especially within the European community. There is an excess of horse meat, which brings the price down. Also, horses are able to graze on land which other animals just wouldn’t entertain.
Werman: Are there any risks that you can see eating horse meat?
Webb: From our point of view I can see no risk whatsoever with eating horse meat. Everything that we sell comes through the European Commission; it’s all checked, it’s all stamped, all the horses have passports, they have all registrations and they have a complete history of any medications they’ve taken and that sort of thing. It’s all controlled by the European Commission.
Werman: What countries around the world are bigger consumers of horse meat currently?
Webb: Argentina is big, Mexico, obviously Italy, Switzerland and there’s a little bit eaten in Germany, Spain and also Southern France areas as well. Iceland eats a lot and Japan eats it raw, apparently.
Werman: Mm, Japanese eat it raw, hmm. Paul Webb, who runs the website ExoticMeats, thank you very much.
Webb: Okay, thank you, Marco.
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