First Person: The answer to Horsegate is to buy local
Iam very lucky to have four really good butchers near me. Even though I live on a farm, I have always supported them because I believe in buying local meat and I enjoy having a good chat at the same time. They can tell me which farm the meat comes from, handy hints about cooking and any special offers they might have.
I bought some beef on Saturday in Blaby and was pleased to discover that, in common with butchers up and down the country, business was brisk.
Some butchers are reporting a 40 per cent increase in sales of fresh burgers. Markets and farm shops are also boasting increased customers.
Since the discovery of horse meat in processed beef products from burgers to bolognese sauce, Horsegate has dominated our news.
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Each day brings fresh revelations, with school dinners and hospital food now being affected. Yet, a month on, we still seem no nearer to finding out how it happened or, crucially, how long it has been happening.
Extensive DNA testing continues and we could still be looking at the tip of the iceberg. We keep being told this is not a serious health hazard (although we don't really know that yet) but we all need to trust the food we buy, even if that is a "value" beefburger.
So how did we get into this mess? Who is responsible? Is it the Food Standards Agency for not being rigorous enough in testing? Powerful supermarkets whose drive for cheap foods leads them to have a supply chain that stretches right across Europe?
Or maybe it's the meat processors who have got away with using cheaper ingredients and possibly being exploited by criminal gangs?
What about the Government and its reluctance to bring in tougher food regulation?
I would guess all of these play a part. Our food is part of a massive industrialised market place.
But we need to look closer to home, too. We, as consumers, also play our part.
We now spend a much smaller proportion of our income on food and have been seduced by the major retailers. Maybe we've been too complacent about the hidden costs of cheap food.
Leicestershire is a great meat-producing county, with farmers producing quality beef, pork and lamb.
Let's support them and resolve to buy local. Many stand at farmers' markets and have farm shops. Look for the red tractor and farm assurance labels.
We should rely less on processed ready meals. If we do, we might also discover just how easy it is to make your own beefburgers.