“Horse Meat Syndrome”


The current scandal around horse meat being found in meat products in Europe got me thinking about what were the causes of this and where else might we have similar symptoms.

First the cause, many people are blaming the meat producers and suppliers for this problem, and whilst it’s true that they are putting the horse meat into the products, is that the real root cause of the problem. I don’t think so.

Surely the real root cause is the constant drive to lower costs and increase profits, and if possible, to lower prices in order to be able to increase market share and revenue, and to meet customer demands.

Every single manager is faced with the challenge of doing more with less, year after year, after year, and it is this, that has led meat producers to source cheaper meats in order to meet those demands. I call this “Horse Meat Syndrome”.

So, if this is the root cause, and I truly believe it is, then where else could we see similar “Horse Meat Syndrome” symptoms arise.

Certainly within the IT industry everyone is constantly looking for cheaper sources of labour, everyone utilises partners who looked to use staff from the east, then to India, then China and are probably now looking for new even cheaper sources, in order to meet the demand for lower prices.

In other areas of business, and in all business, its the same, people are being challenged to do more with less, or at least do the same for less, sourcing cheaper components to make their products.

When we start with the drive of ‘more for less’, the first thing we do is look to take inefficiency out of the system, there is always inefficiency and this allows us to keep cost constant, or even reduced, then in the next year we look to find cheaper components and this is usually done by purchasing departments negotiating better prices.

So now we are really getting the ‘same for less’: same products, produced more efficiently, paying a lower price for the components that make up the product, which is a great result. Same product, same quality, lower price.

But the drive of ‘more or same for less’, year after year after year, can have impact on the quality of components, and ultimately the final product produced, as we are clearly seeing with the horse meat in meat products scandal.

If you will excuse the pun, once we have trimmed all the fat, then the only option is to start trimming the meat, and this is where the problems will start to arise.

Whilst eating horse meat isn’t really safety issue, is this the same for other products, e.g cars, planes, medical services, etc,.

I believe that once the focus moves away from meat we will see exactly the same situation in other sectors, as it’s not really just a meat producers issue, nor are they the real root cause.

This the first scandal in the food industry, battery farming, irradiated food, items beyond the sell by date, Monsanto, etc., etc., the list goes on and on, but these all blow over and we continue to demand more or the same for less.

This ‘Horse Meat Syndrome’ is the real root cause, and we are all to blame, either as consumers who are constantly looking for lower prices, or as managers who are always looking to get lower costs and higher profits.

The old adage ‘you get what you pay for” has never been truer.

If you pay horse meat prices, then don’t be surprised if you get horse meat.