What Do Horses and Beavers Have in Common? They May Both Be in Your Burger

When people buy meat, they usually check the label to see whether the animal has previously been grass-fed, was it organically raised, was it treated with antibiotics and so on, but are they sure that the package claims what’s written on the label? The results of couple of studies have shown that instead of that, people buy ground horse or a fancy slab of American beaver. The studies have been conducted in Chapman University’s Food Science Program through a DNA testing and scientific analysis on ground meat samples, for instance pork, chicken, turkey, and beef from brick-and-mortar grocery stores and samples of specialty game meat like bison, pheasant, and bear sold online. Almost 20% of the package label didn’t line up with what was inside it. 10, out of 48 fresh and frozen samples of ground meat which was found in traditional markets were mislabeled. 9 of those 10 had a mixture of meat spices (one part of what the label said, and one part meat of some other animal), while the 10th sample was a meat of a completely different animal than what the label said.

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This may be due to unintentional contamination at meatpacking plants. If the processor handles turkey, beef, or pork and does not clean the equipment fully, the DNA of the animal may end up in another packing. It is assumed that the lower-cost species are mixed intentionally with higher-cost species for economic gain raising concern about the ethics of the $39 billion specialty game meat market throughout the USA.

While the second study tested 54 samples of the lucrative online market where 10 packages were mislabeled: 2 packages of pricey bison burgers and one package of expensive yak burgers were plain old domestic cattle, one bundle of black bear burgers was beaver, and one container which was labeled as pheasant was actually helmeted guinea fowl. Moreover, 2 of the ground meat samples contained horsemeat, which is illegal to sell in the US.

These studies may be a red flag about the overall cleanliness and safety of meat producers in the US, thus be careful.