Possibly you've been following the Great European Horsemeat-disguised-as-Beef Scandal of 2013? If you haven't, let me get you up to speed.
People in some countries (France among them) do voluntarily eat horsemeat. To those of us from countries where this is simply not "done", I know it may seem wrong that people are choosing to consume horsemeat instead of something more "usual" like beef, pork, lamb or chicken, but for the purposes of this story let's just agree that people eat a lot of odd things in different parts of the world -- including bugs, snakes and monkeys -- so we're not here to judge.
So, yes, in France, some people do choose to eat horsemeat, and it's not a secret. In fact, you can go to certain butchers who advertise that they sell horsemeat along with all the other meats:
The scandal has erupted all over Europe, not because horsemeat is bad for you or because someone was selling tainted horsemeat (I take that second part back; in the midst of all this someone DID sell horsemeat tainted with a horse drug that is harmful to humans and the meat went to France!) -- but because it has come out that all kinds of prepared products that supposedly included ground beef (because those products are specifically labeled as "beef" or even "100% beef") actually contain horsemeat instead!
It was first discovered in the U.K. several weeks ago, and practically every day since there has been a new layer peeled away on this scandal. More and more products are being pulled from store shelves in something like a dozen countries around Europe: ground "beef" patties, frozen lasagnas, and all sorts of regional dishes such as hachis parmentier in France. At first it seemed limited to one or two producers but now the circle of shame is widening and there is so much finger-pointing going on that it's hard to tell where this will end up and how anyone will really decide who is to blame.
Guess what else? H.R.H. the Queen of England and other British royals and notables may even have eaten horsemeat disguised as beef -- at ROYAL ASCOT, of all places. See? No one here is immune to this disaster.
Then we heard Picard, the wonderful French frozen food-store chain that I just love, had started pulling some of THEIR products when horse DNA was found in some of them. That just bummed me out because their frozen lasagna was actually something I LIKED, and we often used to get their beef patties as well; I usually keep them on hand to make a quick spaghetti bolognaise. And now I'm just hoping I haven't eaten Trigger or Mr. Ed without intending to.
The final straw, I think, came yesterday, when it was revealed that even Ikea's famed meatballs -- the meatballs people go all the way out to those inconveniently located Ikea stores to eat in the in-store cafeterias and then to buy in bulk to bring home with them (some people go just for the meatballs and don't even buy any furniture!) -- are caught up in this horsey mess. In Europe and elsewhere, Ikea has already pulled the meatballs off the shelves in nearly every country where Ikea does business (for some reason, I think the US and Swiss Ikea stores weren't involved, although I'm not sure why not).
Again, this is less a matter of companies selling products with bad, unsafe, tainted meat (except for the one case they found with the drug-laced meat); it's mostly a question of honesty in product labeling, of someone profiting from outright lies to the public. Somewhere in the food chain here, someone has been passing off ground horsemeat as pricier ground beef, and of course there is bigger profit to be made as a result. Just WHO decided to do this deliberately (and illegally) still has to be determined. But heads will roll, you can bet on it. The E.U. is on the warpath.
Does anyone wonder if they'll bring back the guillotine over this?
Meantime, I tossed a frozen lasagna (non-Picard) that was in our freezer in the trash after the first few days of news reports, even though that particular brand hadn't been mentioned specifically by name in all the recalls, and now I'm glad I did since it just seems to get worse and worse every day. I'm not buying any more frozen products that supposedly contain ground beef until they get this bordel cleaned up.
A horse is a horse, of course (of course). That is, of course, unless the horse is being camouflaged as something else entirely.
Oh, and in case you were wondering? We do not eat horsemeat. At least, not unless someone is sneaking it into our overpriced Parisian hamburgers. In which case I want my money back on every French burger I've eaten since 2007.