I Know That Meatball: Two Issues That Matter More Than Horsemeat

I had no idea that the Swedish furniture company IKEA serves meatballs and sausages in its big box stores. But it does. IKEA announced this week that it would recall meatballs and sausages from its stores across Europe amid concerns that they might contain horsemeat. In doing so, IKEA became the latest retail giant involved in a scandal so complex that it reads like a political crime thriller. Only it’s real.

If we take the scandal to heart, the lesson is a good one: when we buy processed food, we are not in control of what we put in our body. Period. As The Guardian reports in its “Horsemeat Scandal: The Essential Guide“: A handful of key players dominate the beef processing and supermarket sectors across Europe….long supply chains enable them to buy the ingredients for processed foods from wherever they are cheapest…networks of brokers, cold store operators and subcontracted meat cutting plants…supply rapidly fluctuating orders ‘just in time.’ Consultants estimate around 450 points at which the integrity of the chain can break down.

In other words, the scandal is the most recent example of what goes wrong when corporations, not farmers, control every aspect of our food supply. (I recommend Foodopoly by Wynonah Hauter, Director of Food and Water Watch, for a sobering discussion of our broken system.) In the case of horses, when they are bred in one country, killed in another, stored in a third and eaten in a fourth, of course things are going to go wrong.

Yet the conversations I’m hearing related to the scandal aren’t so much about food production, a topic important not only to our health, but indeed to the very survival of the planet. Instead, they’re largely about the ethics of eating horses. From where I sit, we’re missing an important opportunity to discuss far bigger issues.

Click here to read more of this Huffington Post blog by Kathy Stevens.



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