Monday, February 18, 2013

We need a rethink

The passing-off-of-horsemeat-as-beef story, originally from the UK but now spreading through Europe, has a background to it that I've been unhappy about for a long time.

Reports are that in addition to the UK, retailers in France, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland and Norway have removed processed meat products from their shelves. They obviously all get their products from the same place.

Sweden-based Findus' brand frozen "beef" meals such as lasagna are supplied by a factory in Luxemburg. They get their meat from French company Poujol. Poujol buys the meat from Draap Trading, a Dutch company operating from Cyprus.  Draap buys it from a Dutch food trader, who buys the meat from two Romanian slaughterhouses.

Got it?

See, the problems for me are twofold. No, threefold.

One, nothing is local any more.

Beef meals sold in UK supermarkets are from meat originating in Romania, which goes to France, on to Luxemburg and finally into UK supermarket freezers.

The UK has a huge beef herd, why isn't local beef used?

Two, the chain is far too long. So many people/companies/countries are involved no-one can keep track. Opportunities for scams and fraud are obvious.

Three, price. Everyone in the chain makes a profit from it - supermarket, Findus, the factory, Poujol, Draap, the food trader, the slaughterhouses. Cut out some of them and you cut out their mark-up.

So much these days, in many areas of our lives, suffers from the same problem.

Consolidation/rationalisation of industries - code for the big companies swallowing up smaller companies. Globalisation, with those big companies operating across borders as though they don't exist, and now of course also via the internet.

Being able to buy local products, to support local businesses, is becoming impossible. The downside in my opinion outweighs any positives we get from rationalisation and globalisation.

The horsemeat saga only highlights a few of the negatives.

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