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United Kingdom Science

How Much Beef Is In Your Burger? 709

Posted by samzenpus
from the where's-the-beef dept.
dgharmon writes in with an interesting article about how much (or how little) beef is in a UK burger. "The presence of horsemeat in value beefburgers has caused a furore. But what is usually in the patties? It has been a sobering week for fans of the beefburger. Tesco have used full-page adverts in national newspapers to apologize for selling burgers in the UK that were found to contain 29% horsemeat. Traces of horse DNA were also detected by the Food Standards Agency of Ireland in products sold by Iceland, Lidl, Aldi and Dunnes. But a beefburger rarely contains 100% beef."
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How Much Beef Is In Your Burger?

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  • McDonalds! (Score:3, Funny)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @05:11PM (#42641559) Journal
    "Two all beef patties on a sesame seed bun!" Their commercials say it, it must be true.
    • by Dupple (1016592) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @05:15PM (#42641583)

      Try the meatballs, they're the dogs bollocks

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by hawkinspeter (831501)
        Tesco are also getting into trouble with their "health" rating for their burgers. Although they're low in fat, they're very high in Shergar.
    • by jonnythan (79727) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @05:32PM (#42641715) Homepage

      The patties are 100% beef.

  • Oblig (Score:4, Informative)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@world3AAA.net minus threevowels> on Sunday January 20, 2013 @05:13PM (#42641567) Homepage

    Mmm... unlisted percentages of wheat flour, water, beef fat, soya protein isolate, salt, onion powder, yeast, sugar, barley malt extract, garlic powder, white pepper extract, celery extract and onion extract...

    • by thammoud (193905)

      Would never sprinkle "soya protein isolate" on my burgers anymore. Always thought I added too much

    • Re:Oblig (Score:4, Funny)

      by mrbester (200927) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @07:58PM (#42642811) Homepage

      That's the thing though. When you buy a beefburger that isn't 100% beef you aren't expecting the percentage that isn't beef to be from some other animal without that being pointed out on the labelling.

      You buy a pork and beef sausage you expect pork and beef in it. Not ocelot.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 20, 2013 @05:18PM (#42641603)

    @Freddie_UK: A woman has been taken to hospital after eating horsemeatburgers. Her condition is said to be stable.
    @BobJWilliams: I expect this only relates to those mini-burgers you have as snacks. You know, the horse d'oeuvres.
    @JohnMoynes: I get all my horsemeat from an independent dodgy butcher.
    @DiamondsIRL: Are you in favour of Horsemeat in your burgers? Yay or Neigh?
    @GBretman: So horsemeat has been found in TescoProducts but a spokesman says It's bollocks
    @pinkyperfection: I had a tesco burger and now I'm feeling a little horse
    @brucel: Those Aldi horse burgers were nice, but I prefer My Lidl Pony
    @PaulLewis: Scientist: "Sir, we've discovered horse meat in your burgers." Tesco boss: "Why the long face?"
    @PensionsMonkey: There was an old woman who swallowed a horse, she'd been to Tesco, of course.
    @elhaydo: Good thing about these horse puns is it's stopped all the sick Jimmy Saddle jokes

    The best #horsemeat Twitter gags following Tesco burger blunder [independent.co.uk]

  • by davidwr (791652) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @05:18PM (#42641605) Homepage Journal

    Deceptive trade practices is the problem.

  • A European problem? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Camaro (13996) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @05:21PM (#42641625)

    While I don't have numbers at hand, it is my understanding that there are very few horse slaughter facilities in North America. There is a certain horse culture that are very opposed to seeing any horse slaughtered, even for food.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      More of a British problem. The horse losing the race goes into the burgers.

    • by vlm (69642)

      We have plenty of excess horses from wanna be horsey people. Turns out owning a horse is quite expensive...

    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @05:42PM (#42641807)

      That's partly because it was made illegal in 2006 or 2007 (indirectly, they defunded the government inspectors of horsemeat so, no inspection, no sale). That caused a lot of horsemeat to be shipped to other countries. However, back in 2011 the horsemeat inspectors got funded again so now you can eat a horse if you are hungry enough.

      FWIW, the absolute best piece of meat I've ever eaten was horse - in the italian part of switzerland, I ordered it as a lark. They served it so rare it was bloody and I could barely take the first bite. But it was amazingly tender and not gamy at all. Better than the best filet mignon. However I've been told my experience is not the norm, the stuff is usually stringy.

    • by alexander_686 (957440) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @06:06PM (#42642027)

      IIRC, all horse processing plants in the US have been shut down. (They exported most of their product) It has been a disaster.

      A lot of people who own horses are lower middle class families – they can afford the horse until it’s 15 years old (when the vet bills start up) or the economy crashes. They are few takes of these types of free horses and the local animal shelter is normally full.

      In the past they were taken off the knackers. Now – well – where we live there were a rash of horses that were “set free” in the local state park. The rangers rounded them up and had to shoot them (yes, they did try to find homes from them – but see above).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Belial6 (794905)
      It isn't just the horse culture. There is a widespread mental disorder in the US where people have a difficult time differentiating between humans and other animals. It seems to be getting worse as time goes on.
    • by Richard Dick Head (803293) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @09:08PM (#42643191) Homepage Journal
      I've been around horses in both the US and the UK, and it just seems like the general population of horses in the states are more inquisitive and self-aware than the horses in the UK. The horses I've seen in the UK seem more or less like cows, they just stand there and react bluntly. I've seen a horse in the US 1. do something it knew was "bad" 2. shy away and trot away slowly, looking guilty when the owner approached 3. got even more pitiful when the owner scolded it. Seems more like a smart terrier dog than a cow. I know they sure calculate their surroundings well...if an overweight person tries to approach a US horse they might get visibly nervous or even flee.

      That may explain the difference in attitude between areas. It is hard to feel sorry for an animal that is dense (hence our healthy and unapologetic appetite for cow meat), but a smart animal that you easily develop a relationship with would seem inhumane to use as livestock.

      You know, perhaps cow populations in India may be much more intelligent than the average Western cows, and that may be why they are reluctant to eat them. It'd be worth investigating, certainly.
  • So it was actually called the "Big Mr. Ed Burger" for a reason. I thought the name was the chef who invented it, not the actor that ended up in the first 91 copies. Chalk up one more mystery solved by teh intertubes.

                -Charlie

  • I know they put some fillers (soy protein, wheat, water, etc.) and flavoring (onion, celery, etc.) in my hamburger meat. I'm fine with that. But if you're selling me beef burgers, then I want the meat parts to be beef. I have no particular gut reaction against eating horse and it can actually be tasty to mix a little pork into ground beef; I just think they should be honest about what they are selling.

    It just comes down to honesty.

  • UK only. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @05:36PM (#42641761)
    I believe the article was referring to the UK. I don't know what the laws are there, but here in the U.S., a company would be closed down quickly if it were found the meat had been adulterated like that.

    Sure, there was the flap over "pink slime"... but that was still beef, though it was washed in ammonia. I don't think it was the meat people were bitching about so much as the ammonia.

    It should be noted that only one company produced the ammonia-soaked "pink slime", and they don't do it anymore. Other companies process trimmings, too, but they already used other methods to keep the meat bacteria-free.)
    • by jonbryce (703250)

      It appears the adulteration was done in Holland, and the company that did it will get a €1050 fine.

  • by ChatHuant (801522) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @05:51PM (#42641893)

    They never tell us how much dog is in our hot dogs either :(

  • Various people have commented that this isn't about the fact it was horse, that it's all about deception or poor food quality.

    Actually it's about food safety, traceability, and the long shadow of BSE.

    After the BSE scandal, the UK and EU introduced some of the strictest standards and processes for the tracking and tracing of meat in the world. These recent cases have demonstrated that these processes do not appear to be working.

    The scandal here is not that supermarkets were selling burgers with horsemeat in, it was that they *didn't know* they were selling horsemeat. In theory they should be able to trace every gram of meat in their burgers.

    Somehow meat of unknown origin was getting into the food chain.

    If we can't prevent horsemeat getting in then we can't prevent infected beef from getting in.

    That's the real scandal, that the world's toughest food traceability system appears not to work properly.

    • Shocking. Hayek strikes again, "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design."

      I would have modded you up but I don't currently have any mod points. I decided to post a smug comment that you probably don't agree with instead. :)
  • Recipie (Score:4, Informative)

    by JBMcB (73720) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @08:40PM (#42643023)

    Go to a butcher shop and have them grind you up some fresh serloin.

    Heat up an iron skillet. Fry up a few rashers of bacon (I like Wright's) until it's nice and crispy. Take the bacon out of the skillet when done.

    Dice up some yellow onion and sautee it in the bacon grease. When done, set aside.

    Form the ground sirloin into thin patties, throw on a little salt and pepper, and cook them in the bacon/onion grease. It will take some trial and error to figure out how to get a good medium using this technique - on my regular sized burner on medium-high heat it takes 2-3 minutes a side. If you want cheese, put a slice of American on a minute or two before you pull them off. The heat from the skillet will melt the cheese onto the burger. You can put on any kind of cheese you like, but American is designed to be melted onto things, so it works out the best.

    When finished, heat up some sesame seed burger buns in the microwave for about twenty seconds. Combine the burger, onion and bacon in the bun. Optionally add mustard - though they are so good I usually don't add anything else.

    You're welcome :)

  • by ffflala (793437) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @09:01PM (#42643145)
    Too bad they tried to sneak it in. I bet there's a marketing ploy that could make horse meat burgers a profitable commodity. Haven't yet myself, but I'd really like to try horsemeat; some have said it's quite tasty. Personally I'd like to know how it compares to venison, a meat I very much enjoy.

    It would be nice to have more accessible options for red meat than corn fed (or, for a premium, grass-fed) cow. I understand how fat and marbling affects flavor and texture, but it makes sense to me to train yourself to prefer healthier foods. It seems a fair assumption that horse meat will be a lot leaner than cow meat.
  • The real issue (Score:4, Informative)

    by Grayhand (2610049) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @11:02PM (#42643767)
    "What on earth did you think they put in them? Prime cuts of delicious free-range, organic, rare breed, heritage beef, grass-fed, Eton-educated, humanely slaughtered, dry-aged [beef], hand-ground by fairies...?"

    The point isn't what do you expect but what it "should" contain. The article at makes makes it seem foolish to expect hamburger to be made of beef and you should feel luck it has any meat at all. The fillers and horsemeat aren't about making a cheaper more afordable product as many suggest it's about maximizing profits. I looked it up and if you ground the whole dressed carcass including the expensive cuts it'd only be around $2 a pound not counting grinding costs. The point being they use the absolute worst cuts and even that is too good so they cut it with pink slime and other fillers and even that isn't enough so they add in horse meat. The label needs to reflect the actual ingredients and proportions. If corporations could get away with it they'd sell us beef flavored sawdust and sell it for the same price meat should sell for.

  • by PPH (736903) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @11:14PM (#42643827)

    ... of this [blogspot.com].

  • by andrewbaldwin (442273) on Monday January 21, 2013 @06:36AM (#42645521)

    "What do you put on your burger?" -- "A fiver each way at Aintree!"

    Why do they use horse meat? to save mon-neigh!

    So you got a burger - why the long face?

    I opened the fridge to check the burgers -- and they're off ! (said in the voice of a racing commentator)

    "These must be Viking burgers" -- "why?" --"because they look like a Norse" ...

    What I found amazing is how quickly these spread after the news broke -- I'd heard the first two within 45 minutes of the radio news.

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