A welfare time bomb is building over surplus of unwanted horses
The horsemeat saga rumbles on. For most of us, the controversy is of superficial interest, even mildly amusing given the number of wise cracks it spawned.
Cattle prices have actually firmed as the removal of the filler material from the meat chain created a demand for more genuine beef.
But the DNA technology has lifted the lid on the long time nefarious practice in the meat business known as "mixing". This involves adding or mixing in a source of cheaper meat to dilute the overall cost of the item. To the untrained eye all red meat looks the same. Once the sauces or condiments are added, taste is masked as well.
Cow beef can masquerade as prime beef cuts. Lamb can be substituted by beef. This is the case the world over. In Australia, beef was diluted with kangaroo. In other parts of the world camel meat has been found where it shouldn't be.
In retrospect, given the nature of the meat industry and the availability of cheap horsemeat, the Irish authorities should have suspected the malpractice earlier.
In their recent report, the Department of Agriculture stated that the frozen meat found to contain equine DNA in Silvercrest, was labelled as Polish. There was no evidence of adulteration of these consignments with horsemeat in Ireland. The report also concluded that Silvercrest and Rangeland Meats did not knowingly include the horsemeat in their burgers.
The big Irish players caught up in the horsemeat saga, like ABP, may have lost burger business but their mainstream fresh beef business continues as normal. They are simply too big, and doing the job too well, for the supermarkets to look elsewhere for product.
The biggest casualty of the horsemeat saga is the domestic trade for unwanted horses. The Celtic Tiger collapse had led to a huge surge in horse disposals. Back in 2008 there were only about 2,000 horses slaughtered in Irish Department of Agriculture-approved abattoirs. By 2011, this had shot up to 12,386 and almost doubled again in 2012.