Horse meat burgers unlikely in Australia
A Charles Sturt University (CSU) academic has reassured Australians they don't have to worry they might be eating horse on their hamburgers, as investigations continue overseas into 'beef' shipments which tests revealed included up to 70 per cent horse meat.
The meat was included in burger products, which have been withdrawn from sale in the UK and Ireland, produced by two Irish meat processing companies.
The Irish Department of Agriculture has identified shipments of meat from Polish suppliers as the source of the problem, but CSU livestock lecturer Dr Shevahn Telfser from the School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences said the risk of a similar incident in Australia was very small.
"As a general rule, horse meat cannot enter our supply chain because Australia imports very little red meat and there are strict measures in place to ensure there is no mixing of processed products," she said.
"This protects the industry to a large extent from the possibility of horse meat accidentally entering the human food supply."
Dr Telfser said while Australians were unlikely to be unknowingly eating horse in their hamburgers, about 26 000 tonnes of Australian horse meat was exported for human consumption annually - most of it destined for European markets.
"The consumption of horse meat is often a hotly contested subject in Australia, but it is quite common worldwide," she said.
"It is the most-commonly eaten meat in some European countries and more than 700,000 tonnes of horse meat enters the human food chain each year."
Despite the global popularity and quality of the product, there isn’t much chance of Australian farmers turning to horse meat as their main business.
"Horse meat is not that dissimilar to many of the red meats that we traditionally consume in Australia, in that it provides a good source of protein and iron, and it’s said to have a flavour that compares to game meats," Dr Telfser said.
"But horses require complex diets and are not as efficient as cows in converting the food they consume into meat.
"There is also a social stigma in Australia that horses fall into the companion animal bracket rather than being production animals, so horse meat trade tends to be largely an opportunity trade which relies on a supply of surplus or cull animals from more traditional horse industries."
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