As the horse meat scandal continues to run and run, probing questions are being asked of the food industry by politicians and the public as we try to understand why this has happened.
If you were to ask anyone within the livestock farming community, I suspect they would say that at the root of the problem is the constant pressure to drive down the price of food at the supermarket.
While we all want good value when we do our weekly shop, producers and processors have been squeezed and squeezed to the point where it becomes hardly surprising that some unscrupulous individuals and organisations resort to illegal acts to balance the books and win contracts.
It is indefensible to sell a product as being beef when it contains little or no beef and those responsible should be taken to task but the Supermarkets and ourselves, the consumer, must take some responsibility for driving prices down to this point.
The supermarkets must also take responsibility for their supply chain. All British cattle have a passport and the passport follows the cow as it is bought and sold so that all British beef is fully traceable. The administrative burden that UK Farmers undertake to allow them to trade their produce is considerable but many farmers accept this burden because it allows their produce to be tracked from the field to the plate. There is something badly wrong with the system that prevents a farmer selling his cow at market without a passport but allows Romanian horse meat to be processed in a French factory and imported into the UK to be sold as beef. Currently, we enforce high standards of production here in the UK. This puts our producers at a competitive disadvantage. We then allow cheap imported food products from countries with more lax standards to undercut our farmers.
Good quality food, which has been produced in an ethical way using high welfare standards costs more to produce. To allow us to have confidence in the food we are eating, we must support our local UK farmers and we must be prepared to pay a fair price for our food that reflects the true cost of producing that food to the standard that we expect and demand.