Once it’s been processed and pulped, most red meat looks more or less the same. This seems to be helping unscrupulous meat suppliers: According to a new survey, 20 per cent of ground meat contains more than what’s just on the label.
Researchers from Chapman University analysed 48 samples of ground meat from across the USA to see what was in them. The team used a combination of DNA barcoding and real-time polymerase chain reaction to identify the species, and compared that to the labels. They found that of the 48 samples, 10 contained meat different to what was on the label — in most cases a mixture, but in one case, a completely different animal.
The source of the contamination is unclear — either processing facilities are cutting corners on cleaning, leading to cross-contamination, or suppliers are substituting expensive beef for chewier horse-meat. Either way, it’s bad news — not just because McDonalds will struggle to sell McHorseburgers, but because meat like horse and beaver — yup, they found that in there too — isn’t tested or approved for human consumption.
This isn’t the first time manufacturers have been caught mixing up the animals: the UK had a similar freak-out a few years ago when horse meat was found in everything from frozen lasagne to IKEA meatballs. But it’s a good reminder that when you’re eating something that’s been chopped and chemically rinsed and minced, you can never really be sure what’s in there.