If You Eat Ground Beef, You've Probably Eaten Horse

Research finds more in meat than what's on the label. 


Planning a Labor Day BBQ? If you’re grilling up burgers, there’s a chance that you’re about to serve your guests lean horse meat. And maybe have been for a while now.

Chapman University research published in the journal Food Control found that out of 48 fresh and frozen ground beef products, 10 contained meat from species that weren’t on the label. Two of the samples tested positive for horse.

Whether accidental cross-contamination or intentional mixing with cheaper meat to keep costs down is uncertain. What is sure is that it presents few health risks, and is in fact a delicacy in countries like China and Italy where the myth of the American west doesn’t lend a stigma to eating the majestic beasts.

It’s unlikely the revelation will cut into beef sales. Americans love red meat. It doesn’t matter that from 2003 to 2012, some 1,144 people were sickened by E. coli in tainted beef. Or that Consumer Reports found in a recent meat audit that “all 458 pounds of beef we examined contained bacteria that signified fecal contamination.” Americans still chowed down on 4.6 billion pounds worth of cow last year. That’s the year after Europe’s meat-adulteration scandal broke, showing that beef often included undeclared horse with some products as much as 100 percent horse meat. Maybe horses are secretly delicious. And here you thought you’d never know.

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