For those of us who associate summer with grilled cheeseburgers eaten on the back patio, brace yourselves: beef prices recently hit a record and are expected to remain at high levels indefinitely.
The causes seem to be Mother Nature, the domino effect, and the law of supply and demand. There have been sustained droughts in the cattle-herding states, which makes feed more expensive. More expensive feed has caused ranchers to cut back on the size of their herds. And smaller herds mean fewer cattle available to be converted into those steaks, and burgers, and roasts that Americans relish. With the supply of beef diminished, the price inevitably increases.
Don’t expect to find cheap relief for your beef craving at the local restaurant, either. They’ve been hit as hard by the spike in prices as anyone. And don’t be surprised if other meats are more costly — with beef prices hitting the pocketbooks hard, consumers will be looking for alternative meats like chicken and pork to slap on the grill, and the increased demand is causing an increase in those meats, too.
There’s nothing quite like a piping hot, melted cheeseburger straight from the grill on a summer’s day. This year, though, we may be making do with hot dogs.
There’s an interesting scandal playing out in Europe. Products marketed as beef in fact contain horsemeat, and consumers and governments are outraged.
In all, “beef” products sold in 16 different countries have been found to contain horsemeat. Efforts to trace the source of the horsemeat follow a tortured path from British stores to France, Luxembourg, Cyprus, and the Netherlands. Ultimately, the trail leads to Romania, where officials disclaim any role in a fraud: if Romanian slaughterhouses are producing horsemeat, they say, it is forthrightly labeled as horsemeat. No one, therefore, quite seems to know how horsemeat got into the “beef” product chain. That’s why the British Environment Secretary says the scandal involves some kind of international criminal conspiracy. No one has gotten sick — although health ministers want to test products to make sure they don’t include an animal painkiller that could pose risks for humans — and the fraud claims all relate to simply mislabeling horsemeat as beef.
At bottom, the issue seems to boil down to squeamishness about eating horsemeat. No one wants to eat My Friend Flicka. Why is there a cultural taboo in some countries about eating a horse? We eat cows, chickens, buffalo, pigs, goats, sheep, lambs, ducks, geese, and other birds. Why should those animals be knocked off to enhance the food supply, but not horses?
I’ve never eaten horsemeat — at least, I don’t think I have, although as this EU scandal indicates, you never really know — but I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a try. Meat is meat, and meat is protein. In my view, the fact that it once wore a saddle doesn’t change the analysis.