Have no doubt, there is a cost of producing food to the standards most of us want. There is an even greater cost to taking the trouble of doing it yourself or only buying in from people you completely trust. We live in a world of brands where everything, bar designing the tick, is outsourced to the lowest bid on the world market. Sometimes there is a good reason why something can be done more cheaply by someone unknown on the other side of the world. But sometimes it is because they are doing things that are convenient for you not to know about.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with eating horse. It might make perfect sense to eat a fallen racehorse or a Dartmoor pony at the end of its life. Even a Romanian cart horse might be OK in a stew, but I would rather make that choice myself, with some idea of how it had got to my plate and some credible assurance of how the animal had lived and died. It would also be nice to think that the person selling it had enough respect for me and the animal involved to take the trouble to find out what was in the well-travelled red goo contributing to their ‘everyday value’.
There may be no risk to our health from this meat (as one public health official pointed out, not so reassuringly, the salt and fat in these processed foods will get you first anyway). The horse may well have had a better life than your average, quick- grown, grain-stuffed, beef animal that has never left the yard or tasted grass; but horsegate makes a mockery of supermarket reassurances about sourcing and traceability. If you relentlessly buy on price someone will find a cheap way of doing things, however many bits of paper you make them fill in.
Ninety-five percent of the veg, meat, fruit, eggs, dairy, bread, preserves and pies we sell either comes from our farm, a member of my family or our co-op or other farmers we know well and have worked with for years, whether in the UK or abroad (the other five percent, if a crop fails, we may have to source from a supplier we use less often). Spending time together (preferably in the field, but in a bar also works) is the best way of ensuring quality and integrity in the food chain.