British shoppers may pay high price from horsemeat scandal
For Britons worried last week’s beef lasagne was in fact a helping of horse, peace of mind that such a meal will never reach dining tables again may come at a price.
Livestock specialists say that contrary to some public comments by supermarkets, ensuring a chain of quality from farm to table will cost money – particularly at the cheaper, ready-made meal end.
“How can you supply a meal for two people for a pound,” said Andrew Hyde, managing director of British meat supplier Traymoor.
“I know what things cost and I know that if I was to put six ounces of quality mincemeat into a lasagne or a cottage pie then I would have to charge twice that price,” he said.
The horsemeat scandal, which has triggered product recalls across Europe and damaged confidence in the food industry, erupted last month when tests in Ireland revealed some beef products sold there and in Britain contained equine DNA.
The British government has come under pressure to act and to explain lapses in quality control. Supermarkets, catering and restaurant firms, as well as food manufacturers, are battling to restore consumer confidence amid a welter of lurid headlines playing on a popular British queasiness about eating horsemeat.
Although Tesco, Britain’s biggest retailer, has said raising standards “doesn’t mean more expensive food,” many in the meat industry are not convinced.
“Producing high quality, fully traceable, high welfare standard livestock costs money to put on peoples’ tables,” said Peter Garbutt, chief livestock adviser for Britain’s farmers union, the NFU.
He said consumers had to be more realistic.
MPs are expected to respond to the scandal with further regulation to ensure an ongoing regime of product testing, quality assurance and policing of standards.
With DNA testing costing up to 500 pounds per sample, creating a robust regime will not come cheap.