No horsemeat on the menu for Australia

Monday, 18 February, 2013

Australians can rest assured that there is no horse in their hamburgers, a Charles Sturt University (CSU) academic has said.

According to Dr Shevahn Telfser, a livestock lecturer from CSU’s School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences, the risk of horse meat making its way into beef products in Australia is 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,” Telfser said.

“This protects the industry to a large extent from the possibility of horsemeat accidentally entering the human food supply.”

While it’s unlikely that we’re unknowingly dining on equine meat, Telfser said around 26,000 tonnes of Australian horse meat is exported for human consumption each year, mostly bound for European markets.

“It is the most-commonly eaten meat in some European countries and more than 700,000 tonnes of horsemeat enters the human food chain each year,” Telfser said.

But don’t expect to see Australian farmers jumping on the horsemeat bandwagon, Telfser said.

“Horses require complex diets and are not as efficient as cows in converting the food they consume into meat,” Telfser said.

“There is also a social stigma in Australia that horses fall into the companion animal bracket rather than being production animals, so horsemeat 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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