In the most illuminating piece of research yet done on the horsemeat scandal, a survey carried out between 11th and 13th February for respected industry journal The Grocer found that half of the consumers questioned are not prepared to pay any more for their meat to ensure it does not contain horse. Of the other half of the population, 35% were prepared to pay a bit more (around 10%) and 15% answered “don’t know”.
And while the specific question about who is to blame for the mess was not asked, we can probably conclude that the average person feels that it is retailers and their suppliers who caused the problem, and they should not expect the general public to pay to help them sort it out.
Further, the survey will disappoint those expecting a sudden big change in meat buying as a result of the scandal. Yes, 29% agreed they would buy more British meat, and 30% agreed they would shop more at the local butcher. But 41% said that the episode would not change their shopping or buying habits at all, and only 4 % thought they would change supermarkets as a result.
Despite screaming headlines and blanket media coverage, just 31% professed to be shocked by the horsemeat scandal, and 33% are “quite worried”. On the other hand 42% said they were not surprised by the news and only 18% felt that the food industry would get on top of the situation.
It takes alot to alarm British consumers and horsemeat being passed off as beef seems not to be causing much of a stir among the general public. It may have been different if horsemeat caused a health problem, but even at the height of the BSE scare where health was at risk, 30% of people made no change to their eating habits, according to Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University.