I am going to immediately admit that I regularly buy Tesco value products, including meat. However considering I am a student with a limited amount of disposable money I would argue that this is understandable.
Due to the continuing controversy regarding horse-meat content in value products I believe it is however equally relevant to ask a deeper question of whether we are in danger of ignoring wider and more far-reaching issues regarding our food. As an example, in the context of predicted increasing food shortages in the future, I believe we should consider whether practises like the use of disenewed/reconstituted meat is necessary to avoid waste.
According to Oxfam in 2008 there was unrest in 28 countries regarding food shortages. In these situations people most likely have no choice of food at all due to droughts and other natural disaster’s. Due to the impact of the western worlds meat consumption and demand it may even be necessary to revert to an almost purely vegetarian diet to avoid catastrophe. Furthermore according to the Universal Ecological Fund “with food prices predicted to rise by an annual rate of 10 percent over the next 10 years, the number of hungry people is expected to rise from around 890 million today to around 1.2 billion by 2025”.
Another environmental impact that our demand for food and which suggest we should adopt a more sustainable approach results from acquiring available land for grazing and producing animal feed. A U.N report from their own internal Food and Agriculture Organization concluded that global livestock produces 18% of its greenhouse emission’s in contrast to the 13% produced by vehicles. A way to limit these impacts is surely to avoid waste and lessen the amount of cattle grazing. Therefore by obtaining as much meat off the carcass and therefore limiting the amount of cattle needed for grazing then we would have a greater possibility of achieving this. As long as the meat is not harmful to our health then surely then reality must dictate that we do not waste it.
What also concerns me is that such a paranoia of lower priced meat may extend into other food products like vegetables that are often only cheaper because of their aesthetic appearance.
I would therefore argue that it is simply being sustainable trying to get as much edible and safe meat off the carcass as possible. If we refuse to do this due to aesthetic demands then we are ignoring practical realities. In this context taking Rajendra Pachauri’s advice to “Give up meat for one day [per week] at least initially, and decrease it from there,” further may be beneficial. Therefore by using reconstituted/disenewed meat that remains 100% safe and edible we are simply extending this sustainable and long-term principle further.
What we must not accept today is the impact of mass manufactured and often lower quality fast food meat on our environment and health. Soy grown for animal feed, including chickens and cattle, has in the past and is possibly still contributing to the destruction of rainforests around the world. This has involved such major fast food companies like KFC and McDonald’s. Yet we must make a distinction between this and obtaining as much edible and safe meat as is possible from carcasses sourced from sustainable and environmentally aware food production that also, unlike fast food doesn’t significantly contribute to unhealthy eating. To do this then we may have to accept that such meat may be cheaper. Now some may say that this is impossible and whilst I admit I am no expert in this field I believe my points are still important.
In conclusion, as long as such an environmental and health impact is avoided then I fail to see the problem with cheaper meat considering the realities we face. So before you consider throwing your horse-meat into the bin or avoiding buying it so that it will be thrown away later by supermarkets, just remember that some people may face a day without being fed one meal. To avoid a worldwide catastrophe we all may have to concede that the world can’t always afford us eating the finest, tastiest and most desirable meat and throwing the leftover scraps away.