04 September, 2014

Beef! Is it what's for dinner?


As a distributist, I advocate for engaging in economic activity that is as local as possible, or at least practical. By doing this, you are helping to stabilize the local economy by keeping the circulation of currency – the representation of the economic value of within society – within its boundaries. When profits are kept local, there is a greater chance that they will be spent in the local community instead of in remote ones or in other countries. I have also maintained that, when the economic activity of production is local, the local community can be more aware of its conditions and more able to address problems on a local level.

Ministers Back Food Crime Unit recommendation. Thus runs the headline of a BBC article. The issue here is the question of how horse meat managed to be sold as “beef” in the UK. In a previous article, I outlined how working conditions in production are hidden from consumers when that production occurs in remote locations. Another article showed how centralizing a food source can have wide ranging health implications. This article from the BBC shows how our ability to even know what it is we are eating can not only be hidden from us, but has created a situation where, when a problem is discovered, the effort to find where the problem arose involves an international investigation.

An examination of the following image tracking both the ordering and delivery routes of the meat in question shows just how incapable the local consumer has become of protecting himself from fraudulent food. The order originated in Luxembourg (I am assuming from the UK) and went from there to France, then to Cyprus, then to Netherlands, and finally to Romania. The meat ordered left Romania, not for the UK, but for France, then it was shipped to Luxembourg, and finally to the UK. I'm making an assumption here, but isn't it likely that, when it arrived in the UK, it went to a large distribtuion processing center where it was packaged and sent all over the country? One result of this is that the sales of British raised beef has increased.
Exactly how long the consumers there were eating horse meat when they thought they were buying beef is unknown. This problem isn't just with beef products. Testing has found contamination (for this purpose meaning that the product contains something other than what it is supposed to be) in many products. One group testing food from takeaway restaurants selling lamb products found chicken, beef, and even found five cases where the meat “couldn't be identified at all.”

How can a community enforce its labeling standards so that customers actually get the products they think they are buying in a situation like this? The solution that is obvious to the powers that be is to establish a national food crime unit that will coordinate with similar units in other countries. The solution that is obvious to me is to improve the ability for there to be more local farms throughout the country to provide locally raised beef, lamb, and whatever else the people want to eat. The same needs to be done for local butchers and meat processors. Empower the local communities to inspect these local businesses to ensure that they meet food safety standards. Is the great nation of England incapable of raising beef and lamb for its people? I think they can, and I think the same can probably be said for just about any country.

I am not talking about banning imports, but about the fact that people should not be dependent on distant sources for their daily needs, especially essential needs like food.

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