When is beef not beef?

I can see why these food processing plants are getting confused. Cows have four legs, horses have four legs. Cows have hooves, horses have hooves. Cows have udders, horses have… Oh, hang on a minute…

So now there’s a huge scandal and everyone’s trying to figure out if they’ve eaten horsemeat or not. But why is this such a problem? Obviously there’s a whole bunch of people out there who’ve eaten Tesco burgers or Findus lasagne and failed to notice the difference!

A few years ago my wife and I and a few friends went out to the south of France for a holiday, renting a house from my wife’s colleague. Very thoughtfully he’d sent us an email informing us about the weekly activity in the village, when the markets were on, when the bread van came round in the morning, that kind of thing. Also included was a warning not to buy meat from the van that turned up on a Friday. This wasn’t just any old meat van, no, this was the chevallier, the horse butcher.

Now being adventurous sorts, it was decided that Friday would be barbecue night and horse steak was on the menu! None of us had ever tried it before, and like a week old pheasant, we were game.

The week passed and we explored, went white water kayaking, drank vast quantities of locally produced wine, ate lunch in the middle of a castle. All the usual things one does on holiday. Then Friday came and we realised that despite being within spitting distance of the Mediterranean sea, we hadn’t been to the beach! We packed up our rental cars, flipped a coin to see who was leading the grand voyage dans la plage, and set off southward to the med.

It was a great journey, well signposted and smooth driving, even through Beziers’ one way system. The beach was beautiful and clean, and a lovely day was had by all (even though the water was freezing). We set off home again and took the road back to Beziers with plenty of time to spare so that we might rendezvous with the chevallier. Beziers was to be our downfall though…

The bright well signposted town of the morning had now become a dark cesspit containing the one way system birthed by Satan himself. We took over an hour to find our way out of town, only to find we’d exited to the west with no viable route back to the house. Back we went into the fragrant bowels of Beziers, lost, without hope, and running out of time. Eventually the long searched for escape from Lucifer’s burning arse was discovered and a homeward course was set. The joy was short lived however as we realised that we would fail to return in time to buy the evening’s barbeque fodder.

Shergar supper was beyond us. Redrum rump steak was just a dream. We had fallen at the final hurdle on the last furlong of our journey.

I’ve still yet to try horsemeat. Maybe I need to eat more ready meals.


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