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The mutant meat industry

7 February 2014

7 February 2014

When it emerged that there was horsemeat in cheap burgers, some people thought it might spark a revolution in the British meat industry. Now that the public are more aware of the ins and outs of it all – the complicated and murky supply chains, the potential drug contamination, the images of badly-wrapped frozen meat – perhaps cheap meat would lose its attraction.

But it doesn’t seem to have done so. Despite the stories about sales of game meat soaring and of people going back to basics and cooking from scratch, sales of processed meats such as sausages and burgers are still booming – both in the UK and abroad.

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Perhaps a book called Farmageddon will do what previous meat ‘scandals’ have failed to do. It’s written by Philip Lymbery, the head of Compassion in World Farming, so it comes as no surprise that the author disapproves of many of the methods used in intensive farming. But what might be a more shocking revelation from the book is the mutation involved. Dairy cows in China have been injected with human genes in a bid to make them produce ‘human-like’ milk – an alternative to formula or cows’ milk. Again, in China in 2011, pigs were pumped full of illegal muscle-building steroids which made the animals so big that their legs couldn’t support them – and 300 people were poisoned by the tainted pork. Israeli chickens are being bred without feathers – surely plucking them is just a waste of time? After all, the more efficient the animal, the more money can be made from it.

There have been numerous attempts by celebrity chefs to try to inform children about where their food comes from. But maybe instead of encouraging cookery classes in schools, we ought to be teaching them about what is in their food. It might not be nice, and it might not be pretty, but surely it’s kinder in the long run if the next generation knows what, exactly, they are using to fuel their bodies. And if they still choose to eat cheap meat, at least they’re aware of their decision.


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Show comments
  • N Moo

    Just a note on the featherless chickens:
    Breeding featherless birds isn’t to reduce the time it takes to prepare the carcass, it’s because of the temperatures birds live in in hot countries. Heat stress can be quite common in indoor reared birds without the installation of very expensive ventilation systems, so the birds are bred to be featherless so they’ll have better welfare, and be less likely to suffer from heat stress.

  • Malleus Scotorum

    This book is riddled with conjecture, hyperbole and unreliable or discredited science, designed to scare consumers into eating less meat. Or better still to guilt them into donating to organisations like CIWF, so that the author can continue his crusade to save the worlds farm animals from the alleged misery inflicted daily on them by some imaginary axis of Agri-evil. One that includes the entire veterinary profession, who have sold out en-masse to ‘Big-Ag’ and can no longer be relied upon to put animal welfare first……apparently

    Yes, there are plenty of examples of bad farming practice around the world; often the result of excessive political interference, obsolete infrastructure and inadequate or unenforced regulatory frameworks.

    Yes, we could all spend three years travelling the world at the expense of well intentioned but unwitting donors, looking for ‘evidence’ which, when presented out of context, would seemingly support any hypothesis, however bogus or exaggerated, that we might care to postulate.

    But simply making a list of where the system may appear to have failed, or sensationalising examples of experimental science, neither accurately reflects the reality of contemporary agriculture nor seeks to understand the complex socio-economic, technological and political drivers that are continuously shaping food production around the world.

    Farmageddon does nothing to stimulate or broker informed debate. It is a cynical attempt to drive an ever wider wedge between consumers and those that produce the food they eat. As such it is little more than a opportunistic fundraising exercise by a top-heavy single-issue campaigning organisation, facing a liquidity crisis.

  • Q46

    Nobody had noticed; nobody died; nobody got sick because there was Trigger in their burgers.

    As with the climate change scam, people can see for themselves the reality behind the claims, falsehoods, deceit, half-truths and scientific bunkum.

    A for genetic mutation of the animals we eat, some of us have noticed just how different farm animals look today compared with their nearest ancestors roaming wild nibbling at David Attenborough. Even how different they look from pictures of a century or even half a century ago.

    Genetic modification has been around a looooong time.

    Why wonder what is in your food as long as it is plentiful, nutritious and doesn’t poison you… and it is amazing how quick the latter gets noticed and puts the supplying company out of business.

    • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

      It’s called truth in labelling. Also, I find eating horse unethical. I don’t really like eating cows (despite the fact that beef can be tasty) and I don’t eat pigs these days at all. I should be able to make my own moral and nutritional decisions, without dodgy canners doing an end-run around them.

      Otherwise, I agree with your point about GM.

  • tigerlily

    The workings of the meat industry are hidden from view with the collusion of everyone. People don’t want to know the truth – it is a blind spot society has adopted deliberately – to the extent that it doesn’t care what it is eating. Also society tells itself that it is possible for slaughter to be ‘humane’ – something which it hardly ever is. When we finally face this subject honestly and act with moral integrity it will be a great leap forward in our development.

    • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

      OK: but then just as truthfully let’s confront the fact that wild animals eat each other all the time, in a process that is scarcely more ‘humane’ than our Western manner of killing them. It would be nicer if no one had to die as someone else’s dinner: agreed. But at bottom, the predicament was created for us by Nature, not by our own lack of character.

  • Eddie

    Everyone knows cheap meat is reared quickly and tasteless. But you see, Camilla dearest, some people is what is known as ‘poor’ s0 can’t afford a free range chicken that costs 3 times more.
    When I graduated from uni years ago I was unemployed and broke in a bedsit. I used to buy packs of chicken pieces from the ethnic butchers. Tasted of nothing but fine to make soup, chop into stews, make some mix/curry with. No harm donw – it’s all protein. In a balanced diet cheap meat is fine – one has to look at the big picture.
    I agree that what happens in China is awful though – we should never import meat from there. I wouldn’t eat it.
    Kids in Britain often eat badly because their mothers (incl socalled middle class mums) are clueless about cooking. Most don’t know how to peel a potato or boil an egg. Hence a reliance on processed food like ready meals – which are fine sometimes, but so many kids never eat fresh veg and fruit, thanks to dummy mummy.
    Compare, please, with mainland European countries where girls learn to cook from their mothers/grans/aunts and hence know how to feed their kids well on a tight budget when the time comes.
    Also, we Brits (or a lot of us) spend a stupidly small proportion of our income on food. About 12% I think? Money gets spent on clothes for mummy and new colour schemes and sofas for mummy and holidays for mummy and make-up for mummy. Time mummies got their priorities right maybe?

  • Colonel Mustard

    Drip drip drip.

    Cigarettes first. Then alcohol. Now meat.

    Drip, drip, drip.

  • Ricky Strong

    When you think that to produce 1kg of meat you need between 5,000 – 20,000 litres of water, the same weight in wheat requires between 500 – 4,000 litres and 1kg of potatoes, roughly 287 litres. (These figures are available all over the internet)

    By 2050 its estimated that global food production will require 10-13.5 TRILLION cubic metres of water, and guess what we do with 1.2-2 BILLION tonnes of food produced, yep, we throw it away.

    There are many talks taking place about these massively important issues but do governments give a sh*t? No. More trade, more profits, more housing, more transport, more migration, more production, more consumption, more taxes, more choice, more variety. More, more, more.

    When we are not killing each other, we are killing ourselves with the utter crap we consume and breathe, and in our spare time we kill the planet. No wonder most religions dream of an afterlife.

    • Makroon

      I was under the impression that a shortage of water wasn’t exactly our problem at the moment.

      • Eddie

        The south of England has been officially suffering a drought for most of the last quarter of a century. Maybe it still is? Too many people. Too many immigrants. Too much demand. Too much waste.

    • flaxdoctor

      Rank, absurd statistics – the meat figures merely refer to the amount that fall out of the sky on pasture that might be grazed by cattle. That water hasn’t been lost anywhere – it either gets taken up by the grass or percolates through and completes the water cycle. We don’t irrigate livestock land in the UK – there’s no abstraction, so no impact. We don’t irrigate wheat either. Somewhat ironically, the crop you suggest is most efficient in water use, potatoes, is routinely irrigated and is by far our biggest use of abstracted water.

      Being ‘all over the internet’ merely means that unthinking people have been suckered into repeating garbage. If you’re actually interested in doing the thinking bit that you’ve suggested above – read this first http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/home – it’ll explain the difference between water that falls out of the sky and that which we get out of rivers. It’s quite important

      • Ricky Strong

        I have read quite a bit from the link you sent me.

        My point, though I perhaps lacked the eloquence to convey it, was that we have limited amount of fresh water on this planet, 0.007% if I recall is accessible.

        The website you quote gives the following figures:
        1Kg of beef requires 15,000 Litres of water.

        According to www1.agric.gov.ab.ca a live cow before slaughter weighs 589.670Kg. Multiply that by 15,000 gives 8,845,050 litres of water per cow. Of those litres 93% is green water, 4% blue and 3% grey. So let us set aside the green water.
        The blue water accounts for 353,802 litres of water and the grey 265,351 litres, and this is for one cow.

        Now according to http://www.dairyco.org.uk in 2011 there were roughly 260,042,606 cows on the planet. The blue and get water usage of those cows alone – forget the green water – is 1.612 e+14!!!!! We are talking tens of trillions of litres of water, and again, this is just for cows.

        If I have misread what you wrote I apologise, but that final figure is what startles me. Water on this planet is finite, and unless we develop a truly unique way of purifying sea water on a massive scale we really do have a bleak future.

        • flaxdoctor

          Lets get some scale here – one kg of beef isn’t the same as a kg of cow – divide by at least half for final product – we don’t eat the guts, gut contents, bones or skin, and in a ruminant the guts count for a huge amount (the rumen is a vast fermenting vessel). Great work by the DairyCo team to estimate cattle to the last unit – but talking in litres gives us some silly sums – average rainfall in the UK on a single square kilometre of land – say 1000mm for a livestock area gives us a billion litres of water. For EVERY single sq km.

          The fundamental point is that the water isn’t ‘consumed’ – it doesn’t disappear – it remains as part of the water cycle. The only stress to any ecosystems is in abstraction from stressed watercourses – it’s just not happening. Livestock production in the UK is almost all in the west of the country where it’s easier to grow grass because it rains a lot. This is a non-issue, blown out of all proportion by folks with a political agenda. We won’t need to be doing anything with sea water to grow cattle. Sleep peacefully.

          • Lynnette Frigge

            I THINK THE POINT R STRONG MAY HAVE BEEN MAKING IS THAT CONSIDERING THE AMOUNT OF WATER CATTLE TAKES TO PRODUCE MEAT (IN MY CASE GAL OF WATER TO GET LBS OF BEEF) IS THAT CATTLE USES QUITE A LOT OF WATER COMPARED TO GALS’ OF WATER TO PRODUCE LBS. OF, WELL, PRODUCE. I LIVE IN U.S. SO I DON’T KNOW IF YOU HAVE THE FACTORY FARMS THE SIZE WE DO, BUT JUST TO GET FOOD & WATER FROM SOURCE TO THESE FARMS CAUSES A STAGGERING CARBON FOOTPRINT NOT TO MENTION TRANSPORTING THE ANIMALS THEMSELVES FROM POINT OF ORIGIN TO A NUMBER OF MIDDLEMEN TO STORES. THE FACT IS THE GROUND WATER RESERVES IN THESE AREAS IS AND IN SOME CASES, DISAPPEARED. MANY OF THESE FARMS FOR, SOME REASON ARE LOCATED IN OUR DRIER STATES AND RAINFALL IN THESE REGIONS CANNOT KEEP UP WITH THE DEMAND. THE FACT IS RAISING CATTLE PER POUND OF BEEF REQUIRES SIGNIFICANTLY MORE WATER THAN WATER REQUIRED TO GROW PER POUND OF PRODUCE.

            • flaxdoctor

              Hi, our systems aren’t comparable – the vast majority of our beef is grass-fed, not from feedlots. And we really don’t have a problem with our water supply right now.

    • Jacqueline Jackson

      WHAT ARE THE GOVERMENT GOING TO DO WHEN THE INTEREST RATE GO HIGHER AND HIGHER AND THEY WILL GO.
      GOD WILL NOT HELP. WE MUST REPENT AND ASK FOR IT.

  • Curnonsky

    Have you any factual evidence that the food supply, especially meat, is becoming more dangerous? Far more is known now by meat processors about prevention of bacterial growth, cross-contamination and general sanitation than in the bad old days and the incidence of food poisoning has dropped off enormously. As one other poster has pointed out, you are probably more likely to get sick from the heavily handled designer dishes of your beloved “celebrity chefs” than from eating a nasty McDonalds burger.

    But let’s not the facts interfere with a nice bit of scare-mongering, shall we?

  • Smithersjones2013

    Apologies when I saw the title and picture I thought this was going to be about Westminster or Brussels but I was mistaken……..

    • glurk

      nothing urban liberal about not want to eat crap!

    • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

      Textured vegetable protein not good enough for you, eh? ;^)

      • Eddie

        Oh yes, eat Athletes foot (i.e. Quorn) monstrosities and eat well! Yeah right…

        I often cook meals without meat – but I just call it good food. Not vegetarian anything. Those who claim moral superiority by being veggie, vegan, organic etc are really just attention-seekers and vain beyond belief – and their knowledge of science is at the parrot the pompous professor of veggie-propaganda level!

        Mind, veggies do tend to live longer, like Linda McCartney and Michael Jackson. Oh no, wait…

        • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

          Can’t argue with any of that, though I’ve never had Quorn myself. Sounds like a fox hunt.

      • N Moo

        Meat-free alternatives, such as Quorn, can actually be as expensive as organic or free range meat when you look at the portions you’d get in the packet. They might appear cheaper on the shelf, but that’s because you get only 1 1/2 meals worth out of them, for the 2 you would get from cheap meat.

    • Lynnette Frigge

      UNFORTUNATELY MEAT LOBBYISTS HAVE MADE IT APPEAR AS THOUGH WE NEED MEAT TO SURVIVE. WE DON’T. MEAT (HENCE THE TERM LIVE’STOCK’) GOT US THROUGH THE END OF WINTER WHEN OUR OTHER STORES OF FOOD HAD RUNOUT. MEAT IS NOT A NECESSARY DIETARY NEED. BESIDES PLANT PROTEINS (YES, SOME PLANTS PROVIDE PLENTY OF OUR DIETARY PROTEIN NEEDS) ARE MORE READILY DIGESTIBLE. SO THE QUESTION OF CHEAP MEAT OR NO MEAT SEEMS PRETTY CLEAR TO ME.

  • Makroon

    More American-style apocalyptic garbage. Yawn.
    The co-authorship by the Oakeshott woman, should have been the giveaway.

    Most of the “productions” of “celebrity chefs” are rank, unappetising, made from unwashed ingredients and fingered to death. They invented coloured spittle as a “food” for god’s sake. The silly Heston Blumental loves to chunder on about “molecular cooking”, but he obviously doesn’t do bacteria.

    • glurk

      American apocalypse or not, in this country food is manipulated, lied about, misrepresented and unbelievable.

      You cant even trust fresh products such as meat, vegetables, poultry,fish or dairy not to be tainted in some way with something or other that stands to make the producer a bob or two. The unpredictable effect that any of this ‘food’ will have on any or all of us is unknown. God only knows what goes into the manufactured gunge that passes for real food and he certainly wouldn’t recommend eating it.
      There’s only one way to be sure to some extent and that is to at least grow some of your own in an allotment or a window box, whatever. But I can hear the screams from here. remember the old IT adage…garbage in, garbage out and thats what we build our bodies with, garbage.
      But the genie is out of the bottle sorry to say.

      • Ron Todd

        I have a small garden that is in the shade most of the day. I have a mortgage a loan and an overdraft. I am hardly going to be a regular at Waitrose Reheating leftover donner for breakfast probably not the healthy option but most of the time I try to eat better without spending too much. Somebody will almost certainly come up with the comparison on what percentage of income the average person today spends on food compared with past generations and I expect it is a lot less they did not have online book shops or modern gadgets to spend money on.

        • ButcombeMan

          Good diet seems to be more about educational standard than about being rich or poor. Food remains cheap and plentiful in the UK.

          • Ron Todd

            And in that regard we are getting better. As a boy even one who obviously was going to end up living on his own I was taught no domestic skills, and if I had shown any interest it would have just confirmed to my father that I was a bit odd.

        • Jacqueline Jackson

          So they have got you, haven’t they.

    • ButcombeMan

      Apparently he DOES do bacteria.

      Once could be regarded as unfortunate, twice, we might be entitled to view as carelessness, right or wrong.

      • Makroon

        Yes, I should have re-phrased that. But … quite so Mr Butcombe.

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