Horsemeat humor

So I got an email from reader Merilee (via one “Ron”) which said the following:

In the UK, some supermarkets have admitted that there is horse meat in their home cooked burgers. Even places like Burger King have had to admit that there are “small amounts” of horse meat in their burgers. Tesco is a big supermarket chain in the UK. Within hours of the news that Tesco’s ‘all beef hamburgers’ contained 30% horse meat, these quips hit the Internet:

I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse….. I  guess Tesco just listened!

Anyone want a burger from Tesco? Yay or neigh?

Not entirely sure how Tesco are going to get over this hurdle.

Had some burgers from Tesco for supper last night …I still have a bit between my teeth.

A woman has been taken into hospital after eating horse meat burgers from Tesco. Her condition is listed as stable.

Tesco are now testing all their vegetarian burgers for traces of unicorn.

I’ve just checked the Tesco burgers in my freezer … “AND THEY’RE OFF!”

Tesco is now forced to deny the presence of zebra in burgers, as shoppers confuse barcodes for serving suggestions.

I said to the missus, “These Tesco burgers give me the trots…”

“To beef or not to beef, that is equestrian”…..

I hear the smaller version of those Tesco burgers make great horse d’oeuvres.

Instead of choosing “rare, medium or well done, it’s now Win, Place or Show”.

These Tesco burger jokes are going on a bit…Talk about flogging a dead horse.

You have to admit that those statements are funny. But being skeptical, I was dubious about HorseGate. Checking the Internet, I found that there was indeed a “horsemeat scandal” in 2013: it’s even got its own Wikipedia page.  It involved duplicity on the part of the meat producers, not the retailers.

Re the UK:

Of 27 beef burger products tested, 37% were positive for horse DNA, and 85% were positive for pig DNA. Of 31 beef meal products tested, 21 were positive for pig DNA but all were negative for horse DNA. 19 salami products were tested but were negative for all foreign DNA. Of the 37% of beef products tested positive for horse DNA, Tesco’s inexpensive Everyday Value Beef Burgers tested at 29.1%. All other reported brands had less than 0.3% horse DNA. These products originated from Liffey Meats and Silvercrest Foods in Ireland and Dalepak Hambleton food processing plant in the United Kingdom. Trace amounts of horse DNA were also found in raw ingredients imported from Spain and the Netherlands.

Laboratory DNA investigations were requested by the authorities into possible donkey meat adulteration of minced meat products labelled as 100% beef.[15] British company Primerdesign Ltd provided many of the tests to laboratories and companies wishing to test for contamination.

Full disclosure: I once tried horsemeat. It was a specialty of the Harvard Faculty Club, and one day the Boss, Dick Lewontin, took all his students there. Naturally I ordered the steak cheval, just to try it. As I recall, it was rather tough and dry, not nearly as good as a finely marbled ribeye. I understand it’s no longer on the Harvard menu.



  1. GBJames
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Wouldn’t all this hamburger meat be a “raw ingredient”?

  2. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    So, what’s wrong with horsemeat? That isn’t equally wrong with cow meat, for instance?

    (I’m a very finicky eater and I will NOT eat any identifiable organ, I prefer not to know what goes into sausages, but as for bits of horse muscle vs bits of cow muscle I can’t see any big distinction. Other than, I suppose, a general feeling that one should know exactly what product one is buying.)

    Belgians reputedly eat it. I suppose that says it all – too many Tesco broncoburgers and we’ll all turn into Belgians.


    • Steve Pollard
      Posted February 19, 2019 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      The only time I have been served horsemeat regularly was when I was working at BP’s oil refinery in Dunquerque in 1971. It was served for lunch once a week in the student engineers’ hostel where I was staying. The other guys called it ‘hippopotame’. It was damn’ tough.

    • Adam M.
      Posted February 19, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      I think there’s nothing wrong with eating horse meat, or dog or cat or human meat for that matter, but I am opposed to false advertising.

      I am also opposed to horse meat ice cream, though. It exists and is crazy.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 19, 2019 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      I’ve heard the way they slaughter horses is particularly cruel in that the horses are much more aware of the horror of it all since they’ve been domesticated. There have also been incidents of beating the horses first to tenderize the meat. I don’t know if that still happens.

      • GBJames
        Posted February 19, 2019 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

        Not to address the horribles of your comment, the pedant in me is compelled to point out that cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and chickens are also domesticated. But I would expect horses, who have closer personal relationships with human folk, would possibly be more frightened by the process.

        • Stephen Barnard
          Posted February 19, 2019 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

          The cruel slaughter of animals for food is a guilt I’d carry into the next world, if there were one. Pass the veal, please.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted February 19, 2019 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

          Yes what I meant to say is they are companion animals, trained to work closely with humans. Horses seem to suffer much more from the process.

          • Anonymous
            Posted February 19, 2019 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

            In the US, and I think in Canada also, we have the 4H program. Among other things, it trains (primarily) rural youth in animal husbandry. Children raise stock from birth — whether calves, pigs, whatever — and sell them to the highest bidder at county and state fairs, never to be seen again.

            • Stephen Barnard
              Posted February 19, 2019 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

              I got bit by the “anonymous” bug/feature.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted February 19, 2019 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

              Yes. It’s disturbing as the children treat them as pets and make them pretty for the show them give them up for slaughter.

              • rickflick
                Posted February 19, 2019 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

                Sad but true. But a farmer has to do that to make a living and provide the meat trade. He wants his sons and daughters to take over the family farm one day. The 4H experience is there to immunize against a Walt Disney approach to animals – that is personalized/anthropomorphized.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 20, 2019 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

                Empathy suppression.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted February 20, 2019 at 2:53 am | Permalink

                Moral: If you’re going to eat it, don’t name it. 😉


              • GBJames
                Posted February 20, 2019 at 7:17 am | Permalink

                Maybe that’s why I feel so bad this morning… I ate Ollie Oatmeal with Brenda Banana!

              • Stephen Barnard
                Posted February 20, 2019 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

                One could argue that the 4H kids have a more authentic, meaningful relationship to our food supply, and even our very existence, than someone who buys meat shrink-wrapped at the grocery.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted February 20, 2019 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

                Yes one could. But it takes takes a regular empathic person training to turn off empathy for a being they’ve grown attached to through close caring. As you intimated, 4H does that.

          • sang1ee
            Posted February 19, 2019 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

            I doubt it matters much when it comes to the suffering experienced at the slaughter. Pigs and chickens are highly social animals, and the fact that dogs and horses are more attuned to humans does not mean they are more sensitive to the butchering. I would even doubt they are more frightened even if humans beings are intimately involved in the process (even if it’s her beloved human companion doing the killing). It’s the smell and noise and physicality of the butchering process that’s important here. It’s hard to personalize the other animals because they are not our pets and loved animal companions. This bias is pernicious. Anyways, we must defer to people who have directly observed the kills of all kinds of animals. They know best but my personal opinion is that companion animals don’t suffer any more, so killing all social animals is equally immoral.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted February 19, 2019 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

              You may doubt it but the human society and other organizations say otherwise. It’s to do with the nature of horses.

              “Horses are skittish by nature (owing to their heightened fight-or-flight response), which makes accurate pre-slaughter stunning difficult. As a result, horses often endure repeated blows and sometimes remain conscious during dismemberment—this is rarely a quick, painless death. Before the last domestic plant closed in 2007, the USDA documented in the slaughter pipeline rampant cruelty violations and severe injuries to horses, including broken bones protruding from their bodies, eyeballs hanging by a thread of skin, and gaping wounds.”

              • sang1ee
                Posted February 19, 2019 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

                So nothing to do with human companionship. Plus, that’s suffering caused by human incompetence. You can argue greater skittishness is itself a cause for greater suffering, even with a clean kill, but who can demonstrate that one way or another. That washes out in the end by the bottomless suffering caused by the shared nature of all these animals, anyway.

    • Posted February 19, 2019 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

      The organs are delicious though!


    • Posted February 20, 2019 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      The biggest issue is probably that most horses, in the UK and Ireland at least, are not raised for consumption. That means there are fewer restrictions on things like what drugs you are allowed to give them.

      I’ve eaten horse in France before (where they do not seem ti have the same issues with it). It’s just another kind of meat.

  3. Randy Bessinger
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Are the burgers part of the mane course😀

    • JezGrove
      Posted February 19, 2019 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      Yes – and you can eat them “on the hoof”.

    • Janet
      Posted February 19, 2019 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      That’s good. I’m going to steal it.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted February 19, 2019 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

      Not according to the neigh-sayers.

  4. Stephen Barnard
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    I understand the need for truth in labeling, but why should a perfectly good horse carcass go to waste? Is it because we have some sentimental attachment to horses? If so, it’s a recent thing that the Roman armies, the Lewis and Clark expedition, and most likely the Donner Party didn’t share.

    • David Coxill
      Posted February 20, 2019 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Did the Donner party enjoy Kebabs ?

  5. sang1ee
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    As it happens, just four days ago there was a news article that went out on the Communist Broadcasting Corporation outlining the results of a DNA barcoding test on 100 sausages to see what contamination, if any, there were from the meat as labelled.

    Sheep, sheep everywhere, some bison and turkey. A couple chicken sausages, predominantly made of beef.

    But, the silver lining was: “At least we didn’t find horse meat this time,” Hanner said, referencing a finding from two years ago. ” (That) has personal, religious or cultural implications.”

  6. rickflick
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Look, the word hamburger itself is a dead giveaway that it’s actually pig meat. What’s the fuss? With pickle and special sauce you can’t tell the difference anyway.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted February 19, 2019 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

      The fuss is that people should have a right to know what they are eating. If it is labelled as beef that’s what it should be. If it was labelled as horse or as including a percentage of horse meat then no problem, but it wasn’t. Furthermore if unscrupulous people are prepared to put one thing in the food and call it another how do we know what else they might be putting in to cut costs (and I don’t necesarily mean what other species but also meat that would ordinarily fail to meat health and hygiene standards for example).

      • rickflick
        Posted February 20, 2019 at 11:11 am | Permalink


    • Posted February 20, 2019 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      I know you are probably joking, but just in case you are not, they are called hamburgers because they are associated with Hamburg in Germany, not because they have anything to do with pigs.

  7. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Of course there is a high risk of false neighativ … positives.

  8. Tom Johnson
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    One of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo has horse sashimi on the menu as an appetizer. The euphemism for it is “bainiku,” “plum blossom meat.” It does have a faint floral scent and, served with soy and grated ginger, is very nice. When I was a graduate student the local coop had horsemeat on sale occasionally. Much cheaper than beef. When it did, a group of us grad students would get together for a Sunday dinner featuring a horse roast.

    • David Coxill
      Posted February 20, 2019 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      Lashings of Horseradish sauce i trust.

    • Posted February 22, 2019 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Interesting – everywhere in North America that I have seen to bother advertising horse sashimi it has been more expensive than beef or any of the fish kinds. (Or did you mean the roast was cheaper?)

  9. samoffat@28gmailcom
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    It’s not the eating so much as the horrors of how they are killed, how they are transported to slaughter. I suppose it’s logical to eat horse if eating cows and pigs etc – tho it’s possible & laudable to eat none of those. The slaughter and transport rules, or lack of same, are scandalous. And horses are sensitive creatures who deserve, like all animals, humane care.
    Logic and kindness are often in opposition.

    • norm walsh
      Posted February 19, 2019 at 4:47 pm | Permalink


  10. Mkray
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Horse meat is very popular in the Veneto region of Italy.. there are specialist restaurants… my Paduan colleague took a group of us to one, but I chickened out.. at the bottom of the menu was a beef dish.

    • JezGrove
      Posted February 19, 2019 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      “Chickened out” – and had beef?

    • dabertini
      Posted February 19, 2019 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      I once had horse fluffs at a restaurant in asiago. Their apparent english translation for thinly sliced horse meat salami.

  11. grasshopper
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    You can lead a horse to slaughter, but you cannot make it … damn, I can’t think of a meaningful rhyme. Guess I am flogging a dead horse.

    • David Coxill
      Posted February 20, 2019 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      As the late great Stan Laurel once said ,
      “You can lead a horse to water ,but a pencil must be lead “

  12. JezGrove
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Gives “saddle of lamb” a whole new meaning…

  13. Christopher
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    But is Greggs new vegan sausage roll actually made with 100% vegan meat, or did they grind up a few lacto-ovo vegetarians into it as well?

    • JezGrove
      Posted February 19, 2019 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      That’s a whole new scandal for us to loo forward to.

      • David Coxill
        Posted February 20, 2019 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        The British bank Natwest was forced to apologise to a customer after a staff member told her all vegans should be punched in the face.

  14. Anonymous
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    I’d like the Galloping Gourmet’s take on this kerfuffle.

    • phoffman56
      Posted February 19, 2019 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      From wiki on horse meat:

      “The people of Iceland supposedly were reluctant to embrace Christianity for some time largely over the issue of giving up horse meat after Pope Gregory III banned horse meat consumption in 732 AD, as it was a major part of many pagan rites and sacrifice in Northern Europe. ”

      I’ve spent about 25 weeks in Iceland over the past 10 years. Many restaurants do have it. But apparently it is not as popular as a food there as I had thought. The mystery might be what all those horses you see rurally all over Iceland are useful for. But both horse meat and the more popular whale meat meet objections both internally and internationally.

      The Icelandic horse is very popular in tourist pics, as a gentle ride. The purity of the ‘breed’ is strongly protected: I understand that no horse of any kind can be brought into the country, even an Icelandic horse taken out to an event elsewhere cannot come back.

      • phoffman56
        Posted February 19, 2019 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, not a reply to #14.

  15. mallardbrad
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    The thought of consuming horse meat is still appalling to me not because of the meat, but the idea of the slaughter of these wonderful beasts. After decades of bouncing around the planet in the military, I was introduced to some strange foods & customs, not the strangest of which included snake in SE Asia, sashimi in Japan, capybara in South America, and nutria in Louisiana. Drew the line at monkey brains in Africa. BUT IT IS WRONG to sell the meat (whatever the source) as 100% beef.

  16. yazikus
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    A town in Oregon that I used to live in was home to (I believe) the last running horse slaughterhouse in the US. Residents told tales of hearing the horse-screams, and of the occasional backup where blood would flow up into the sinks/tubs. An eco-terrorist group fire-bombed the place, and at some point after that the US put in place their moratorium on horse slaughtering. Last I checked, we still don’t do it at all.

    The Umatilla tribes wrote tried to petition the government to end the moratorium due to the crises of feral horses on their lands. The horses aren’t owned or cared for, and often were dying of starvation and exposure. Their argument was that it would be less cruel to allow those horses to be cultivated to slaughter and exported to markets eager for horse-meat.
    I found it to be compelling.

    (There is a great documentary that follows up on some of the folks associated with the eco-terrorist group that some may enjoy. It is called If A Tree Falls and was available on Netflix last I checked.

  17. Janet
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    That’s good. I’m going to steal it.

    • Janet Dreyer
      Posted February 19, 2019 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

      Oops, that was meant to be a reply to Randy’s Mane Course comment.

  18. Janet Dreyer
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Tesco must be where the Galloping Gourmet shopped.

  19. Jonathan Gallant
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    During my residence in Paris, millenia ago, I often used to walk past a boucherie chevaline, decorated with a horse-head, on the Rue Mouffetard. I never investigated. We did, however, often purchase a lapin at a street market, and were interested by the way they were always hung with fur still on the forepaws. We were told this was to show that they were not cats—this was, of course, in the days long before DNA testing.

  20. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    re: anonymous that almost happened to me too. WordPress logs me out on my one iPad. Annoying.

  21. grasshopper
    Posted February 19, 2019 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    My daughter had a pony with a sore throat.
    The veterinary surgeon told us he was a little hoarse. Our other horse was pretentious. In fact, she was Andalusional.

  22. beanfeast
    Posted February 20, 2019 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    “19 salami products were tested but were negative for all foreign DNA”

    Does that mean there was donkey meat in them?

    • Posted February 20, 2019 at 6:20 am | Permalink

      Ah – the great character from literature, donkey ate hay.

      • Don Quijote
        Posted February 20, 2019 at 6:50 am | Permalink

        I resemble that remark.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted February 20, 2019 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        Or his anglo cousin who is trying to eat less oats, “Don Kicks Oat”.

  23. Posted February 20, 2019 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    There’s nothing wrong with horsemeat…except…The meat in question was unregulated and coming via eastern european organised crime syndicates. This means that there might be all sorts of things in it. What sorts of things? Well, put it this way, I once asked a friend who studies genetics how much human meat would have to be in the food supply for it to be detectable by his methods and he told me “not much” and “we’d probably rather not know”. And then you start thinking…I wonder what happens to unsuccessful eastern european gangsters?

  24. Posted February 20, 2019 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    PS Jerry started a sentence with ‘so…’ 🙂

  25. Lurker111
    Posted February 20, 2019 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Obligatory link:

    • rickflick
      Posted February 20, 2019 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      I hope the popping eyes and clenched teeth mean he’s already dead.

  26. Posted February 20, 2019 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    When I was maybe 10y old, living in a rural area outside Philadelphia, my parents at least once got a substantial amount of horse meat, rather than beef, from a commercial meat supply, for our freezer. As I recall, the main difference was that the horse meat was somewhat drier and tougher than the beef, perhaps because it wasn’t similarly fattened before butchering. Other than that, I don’t remember any significant difference.

  27. Posted February 22, 2019 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    As much as I try to approach everything in a rational manner, my attitude on the consumption of meat, and which species is acceptable to eat, is totally emotional and rationally incoherent. I really love horses and find it abhorrent if ever by accident I should consume horse meat. Ditto to a lesser degree for dogs and cats. Cattle I am fond of but can’t resist a beef burger or steak. I used to hobby-farm …. kept beef cattle. Sending them off to market was the low point of my year, especially knowing that Halal and Kosher ritual slaughter was a possible outcome. Personally knowing the animal that is to go to slaughter is an appalling thing. I would rationalise all this by thinking I had given them a few good years of life- that a few years of life is better that having not been born at all. This idea of course is philosophically bankrupt. I think we are cursed being omnivores.

    • GBJames
      Posted February 22, 2019 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      I think you are correct about the curse of being omnivorous. Recognizing one’s own dietary incoherence makes one more tolerant about the habits of others.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 22, 2019 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

      I agree with everything you say. I really hope we can have meat grown in a laboratory soon.

  28. Posted March 2, 2019 at 1:41 am | Permalink

    As far as I know, consumers in the UK have been eating horse meat for decades. It’s lean, nutritious and isn’t pumped with chemicals. Many folks jump hurdles just to get it.

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