CHARLES GRAHAM - Food is all a matter of taste

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THE British have long looked down their noses at countries which deign to eat horsemeat. How could anyone civilised resort to such inhumane barbarism? they would ask as they tucked into their roast lamb.

Having lived in France for a while I am occasionally asked whether I ever ate the stuff there and am always quick to reply with an affirmative, adding a compliment on its tastiness.

The follow-up question usually involves either something on the lines of “don’t you feel uncomfortable about eating so noble an animal?” or “isn’t it a really strong meat?”

Well the answer to both inquiries remains “no” and now most of us now know that the answer to the second question to be true after what is turning into the biggest meat con in British history.

It just goes to show how palatable a dish it is, if it has needed scientific analysis to inform us that some of our burgers are not from a cow but are in fact 100 per cent Dobbin.

I remember chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall trying to create meatballs using quality, ethically-farmed meat as an alternative to those on offer to folk on a budget which are full of fat and parts of an animal we would rather not think about (now that really does make me squeamish).

He took this product to the supermarket suits and while they liked the taste they rejected him every time because he couldn’t get the price low enough for their profit margins.

Well now we know how some suppliers are able to “meat” the superstore requirements.

Not that I think horsemeat should be cheaper. It is just as flavoursome and probably healthier than its more accepted protein counterparts.

As you can tell by now I am unsentimental about animal husbandry, as any omnivore should be (to eat meat but then bury your head in the sand over the abattoir is sheer hypocrisy).

And while I used to like Mr Ed and Champion the Wonder Horse as a child that doesn’t mean that I have more of an emotional attachment to our equine friends than to our ovine, bovine and porcine ones.

Of course the real issue at the centre of the horsemeat scandal is that folk have been duped into thinking they are buying and eating beef. And for that the producers and vendors should have the book thrown at them.

When so many people have special dietary or religious requirements and when folk are forking out good money for what they want, it is quite right that it is enshrined in law that ingredients should always be accurately recorded on the packaging.

But maybe after the labelling and ingredients scandal has died, Britain’s views about putting horse on the menu might have changed.