Total Horsemeat

For the past three weeks the government has, as usual, asked the companies who contribute to the government’s funding if they wouldn’t mind awfully doing something about the fact that ‘value’ food isn’t what people thought it was. Specifically, it was bits of old horses instead of cows. So if the supermarkets and supply chains could possibly get around to doing something about not breaking the law any more, not advertising falsely and not selling meat that was unfit for human consumption that would be much appreciated. No rush, obviously and equally obviously no hint of anyone being prosecuted for breaking the law, unless they were dreadful foreign types in faraway countries.

Our brave supermarketeers were portrayed as victims, this time of the dastardly Eastern Europeans. Sinister crime rings were dumping horses into the food chewed by plucky Brits. Nothing to do with the fact that the supermarkets didn’t know what was in their food and were breaking the law at all.

What happened was this. Tesco, Findus and other major food producers and retailers were caught red-handed with horse-meat in their burgers. First it was supposed to be ‘trace elements’ of DNA in the burgers, the kind of contamination you might get from picking up a pork chop with bare hands. Next it was 29% horse. Now Findus lasagne has been found to be 100% pure horse meat. Last week the head of the Food Standards Agency decided to lie about it on Radio 4. He said that nobody knew how the horse meat had got into the food chain and there was no danger.

Obviously if he didn’t know how the meat got into the food chain he could not know whether it was fit to eat or not. No-body challenged him that I’ve heard. Because fundamentally, we really don’t care.

We want it cheap. Cheap is good. More is better. We want to watch more and more cookery programmes and eat more and more processed meals. Read any Mintel report you like to check the truth of that. I’ve asked in five-star hotels if the eggs were free range and got asked what that meant and then what difference did it make?

When it comes to food, people want to say they care. But as Tesco almost say every day, very little helps.


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The Cult of Cheap

This morning I saw an advert for some writing that needed doing.

“I need six articles for my website.”

Ok, what about?

“Six different medical topics about how nutrition can prevent these six things.”

Go on.

“You’ll need to do the research yourself.’


“In a week. For $20.”

I saw another ad, for help wanted to do a market research survey. I’ve done these for 20 years. I’ve worked on them all around the world. I sort of know what I’m talking about on this topic, on a good day. But not in web world I don’t.

Someone wanted to survey IT workers. Actually, they didn’t. they wanted to say they had done it. They wanted to survey one company and extrapolate the results for the entire industry. By email, obviously, as that sounds nice and cheap. Yes, I’d have to find 100 people’s email adresses. Didn’t we mention that? Well, that’s officially not a problem and if it is then you’re being negative.

The normal email response rate is well below 3%. To get 100 people that means the company would have to have at least 3000 IT workers. Given that a company is likely to have other workers as well that means the entire ‘survey’ would be skewed towards just the very biggest companies.

Then they wanted ‘inferences’ drawn from the quantitative research. Let’s think about this a minute. We’re measuring how many and using results that say things like 59% t ‘infer’ what people mean. That is what qualitative research is for.

I estimated if this job was done properly it would cost between £5,000 and £10,000, depending how much ‘inference’ you preferred to actually knowing what was going on. But most of all I recommended not even starting it this way, because this excuse for research was just going to produce nonsense. Give me a call, I said. I’ll talk you through it.

Difficult to work with, obviously. They didn’t call. They put the job out to someone else. For £158. Nice and cheap. And a total waste of every one of those pounds.

It is endemic. It is not about the recession. It is about a fundamental attitude shift commoditising life, where cost has to be inversely, perversely correlated with value; the message that cheap is good and more is better.  You cannot get something for nothing. Ask the Daily Mail, or any of the other market champions who use half their space to condemn ‘scroungers’ who want to ‘get something for nothing’ and the other half telling people that’s exactly what they can buy.

And maybe that’s the key word: buy. Better value equals lower price. And anyone who says otherwise is a cheat. Welcome to the brave new world.



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Total Horse Burgers

Once again the food chain has been shown to be essentially lies. The supermarkets don’t know where their food comes from, nor do the wholesalers. The people who eat it mostly don’t care.

The issue isn’t that the meat isn’t what it says it is. That’s bad enough. The real issue is the barrage of insulting lies the government, every government, feels obliged to trot out to protect contributors to Party funds.

“We don’t know what’s in the food chain,’ said the head of the Food Standards Agency. ‘There is no danger.’

If a corner-shop had been caught selling meat that was unfit for human consumption – all horsemeat in the UK, by definition – they would be shut, immediately.

Have you seen any supermarkets closing?

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Strange Brew

I’ve just finished a manuscript. Someone said ‘oh, its a bit autobiographical, is it?’

I prefer the phrase roman a clef, moi meme. But maybe. A bit. It worked for Charles Dickins and Will Self, after all.

Very strange things are happening with this MS. A friend suggested a better ending. Re-wrote. Then discovered new Facebook pictures that seemed to substantiate the fiction as if in a mirror.

As the man said, strange brew, look what’s inside of you.

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