Counterfeit Food – The Horse in the Cow


I’m usually impressed by documentaries. They show a side to reality that I hardly ever get to see. In many ways, they’re perhaps the most eye opening forms of media there is. I recently saw just one such enlightening documentary called “Food … Inglorious Food”. It’s an Al Jazeera documentary series that looks at how powerful people exploit systems for their own benefit. I highly recommend you watch it.

The Problem : It’s Meat but what Kind

This documentary looks into fake food in the European market, and it opens with an investigation into plummeting beef prices in Ireland. In 2012, the Chief Food Safety official in Ireland noticed that prices of beef were exceedingly cheap and this seemed strange to him. This clever fellow was smart enough to look into it and performed some DNA tests. What he found shocked him.

DNA sampling of 27 commercially available meat products had horse DNA in them. One product had a third of horse meat in it.

All sorts of products were tainted; everything including hamburgers, lasagna, moussaka, ravioli, mince meat and much much more.

Over in France, random testing would find that meat would contain bone tissue, connective tissue, glands, mucous membranes and lymphoid tissue. In other words, meat was replaced by slaughterhouse by-products and protein supplements.

Further investigations would reveal that the horse meat was imported from Canada and Romania. The horse meat then entered the food supply at the bottom of a myriad and complex networks of traders and suppliers. This was intentional as to obfuscate the fraud.

This highlighted the truly global nature of counterfeit fake meat market.

Even as some one living in South Africa, I wonder if my country has also been tainted by this horrid practice.

The System

One of the whistleblowers remarked, that it’s not one group that is perpetrating this fraud, the entire system is corrupt and colludes in it. It’s not just the suppliers; it’s the purchasers who would accept the fraudulent product, it’s the regulators who ignore fraud because it’s too much work to police, and it’s the consumer who wants the cheap product.

The system has evolved into a monster that exploits all sorts of animals whether or not they’re sick, produces substandard product, passes it off as something palatable and we pay the discounted prices for the convenience.

All the while we know in the back of our minds that something isn’t right. It’s obvious to us that meat can’t be this cheap. It’s obvious to us that a McDonalds hamburger can’t be cheaper than an avocado. It’s obvious to us that dairy milk can’t be cheaper than soy milk. Yet we buy into the lie because it’s cheap and convenient.

Clearly this is something that has to stop.

When you look at a slab of mince meat with your own eyes, there’s no way you can definitely know that what you’re eating is not dog, or cat or horse or rhino or even the last Burmese tiger in existence.

You can not for certain know that what you’re eating is not a cow. And that should give us all pause.

However, when you consider an apple, or a cabbage, or kidney beans, or broccoli. You can be absolutely certain that what you looking at is an apple, or a cabbage or kidney beans or broccoli.

And that leads me to the solution.

The Solution

As brilliant and eye opening as the documentary is, they don’t spell out what the solutions are. Instead we see a myriad overwhelmed bureaucratic agencies attempting to get the problem under control. They do great work, but they’re either toothless and can’t prosecute, or they have power but no investigative ability to truly uncover who the culprits are.

To me the solution is simple. Do not buy animal based products. In fact, we should be consuming a plant based whole foods Vegan diet. Because as mentioned previously, we all know what a coconut looks like. We’re not going to be duped into buying a counterfeit one.

Because we have bought into this lifestyle of cheap convenience, we’ve forsaken our ability to grow our own food, cook for ourselves and truly have a connection with the produce of our land. The result is that we eat horse meat, connective tissue, glands, mucous membranes, lymphoid tissue, snout; with the travesty being that we actually pay for it, however cheap it may be.

There’s a better way though. I’ve been a Vegan for 5 years now. And the more I practice this lifestyle, the more I gravitate towards a plant based whole foods vegan diet rather than eating prepackaged processed vegan food. This result is that I have a better understanding of the food I buy, the food I grow and how I prepare it. This leaves a smaller exposure to my eating fake food.


There’s a scene in this documentary where a lame, ill and clearly distressed cow is being dragged to her death. The poor animal has certainly given up all hope. It’s quite a disheartening scene.

It saddens me to think this is the abuse we dole out to a defenseless animal. Yet the joke is on us. Because we’re are the one’s who end up paying for what ultimately is a product of a myriad of exploited animals whether they be cows, horses, dogs and god knows what else.

There’s no way to absolutely say that what you’re eating is meat. And if you can’t be certain, then perhaps you shouldn’t eat it.

Photo by Viki Mohamad on Unsplash



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