Is it legal to sell rats for human consumption?

A question. I’m looking for a food that it is entirely legal to sell but which isn’t sold because no one wants to eat the stuff.

Rats?

Could use different example, sheep’s lungs for example. They are eaten, in haggis, but it’s extremely rare to see them alone – I have done, but 45 years ago. Used to be a specialist offal butcher in Green St in Bath.

But would like an example that would truly make the point. Rats would be good – is it legal to sell them, as long as properly labelled?

The argument, of course – chlorine washed chicken. If people want it then it will be on the shelves, it will sell. If they don’t then it won’t sell and it won’t be offered. So, the only reason to try to ban it – as part of the reason to not have a US trade treaty – is because you know people will want it.

Substitute rats and it makes the point nicely.

54 comments on “Is it legal to sell rats for human consumption?

  1. Or maybe use horse meat? Is there a specific law banning it?

    The reaction to the horseburger discoveries a few years ago would be an interesting illustration.

  2. I assume people who wouldn’t buy chlorine washed chicken wouldn’t let their children (or themselves) go swimming.

  3. An officer in a Hornblower story asserted that a biscuit fed rat was a fine delicacy.
    So – are you suggesting wild rats or farmed rats? Farmed rats might make your point best.
    Or maybe guinea pigs, which are farmed and eaten in other countries, but usually regarded as too cute for sale in the UK.

  4. “The reaction to the horseburger discoveries a few years ago would be an interesting illustration.”

    The reaction of most people I know was if it’s cheaper than beef and similar in taste, WTF isn’t it available in the shops?

  5. Then there’s carp – a big seller on the continent, but despite an abortive attempt by my local Morrison’s to sell it one Christmas a few years ago, you won’t find it on many supermarket slabs in the UK.

  6. I saw lamb’s lungs on the menu in a Munich restaurant. But then Bavarians eat all sorts of fauna.

  7. It doesn’t make the point because consumers don’t know (or want to know) all of the 943 processing steps their food goes through, and will never be in a position to control all those variables at will. That and/or the big food companies will lobby against labelling requirements, make use of the (generally sensible) tolerance limits, etc.

    Chlorine chicken is beside the point (I personally don’t see the problem) – what Tim wants is the libertarchist utopia in which all food standards are abolished and we keep a lid on scandals by peddlers of rotten food going out of business because all their customers die. The utilitarian question boils down to – do you want that, or do you want some regulations at the inevitable cost of having some of those regulations not to someone’s taste?

    Incidentally, sheep lungs are banned for human consumption in that free-market paradise the USA. As is Mimolette cheese. And (until recently) Parma ham.

  8. BiG the real point is this meme on which Guardian readers are fixated, including my partner, that if there is a trade deal with “Trump’s America” then British supermarket freezers will instantly be filled to overflowing with chlorinated chicken. It is taken as fact by these people and they will not accept arguments from incredulity. How people can possibly believe such nonsense is beside the point. It is a matter of religious belief. Where does it come from? How can it be combated?

  9. what Tim wants is the libertarchist utopia in which all food standards are abolished

    Are you calling Tim a lobster?

  10. There was a story in the papers a few years ago of a butcher in Sussex who was selling fox and badger meat. No suggestion that what he was doing was illegal.

  11. @Diogenes – I really, really don’t understand why the Grauniad types insist on believing that a free trade agreement with the US means accepting all their standards.

    Do they seriously expect to walk into John Lewis and be confronted with rows upon rows of 110V coffee machines and panini makers fitted with American plugs?

  12. Do they seriously expect to walk into John Lewis and be confronted with rows upon rows of 110V coffee machines and panini makers fitted with American plugs?

    There’ll be no John Lewis after Brexit. Just locust-infested Walmarts with empty shelves.

  13. BTW I am told that in the UK, rat is not included in those things which are legally considered meat and therefore cannot be sold.

  14. @JuliaM,

    Rather fascinatingly, ‘carp’ in Romania is spelled ‘crap’. I kid you npt. When I was told this, I imagined that it was a typo on a menu, but having been there, I found it to be true. So, one orders ‘crap and chips’, and it tastes rather like one imagines it would.

    As to religious belief, why do 2 major religions (plus, I suppose, all species of vegetarians) pass up on pork? For a start, it’s delicious, then you can eat or use most of the carcass. Plus, in comparison to horse, cow, sheep or goat which have one offspring or at most 2 each year, a pig goes on churning them out in several batches each year (and with significant numbers each time) like a benefits farmer on steroids. Add to that they grow at a hell of a rate because they eat just about anything rather than just grass (OK, I note that goats are not particularly choosy, but they are still veggies), then if you want to eat meat in your diet, then pig’s the way to go.

  15. Unbelievably, I’ve failed to sell my raw slug recipe to the Gruandien.

    I thought it would be a sure-fire winner. Stop using Big Pharma chemicals to protect your plants. Eliminate the slug populations’ Carbon Footprint. Force the closure of nasty slaughterhouses and butchers. Animal protein without the meat.

    It may be that the method is too simple.

    1.Go in the garden. 2.Pick up slaug 3.Put in mouth

  16. @Diogenes – January 25, 2019 at 9:50 am

    BiG the real point is this meme on which Guardian readers are fixated, including my partner, that if there is a trade deal with “Trump’s America” then British supermarket freezers will instantly be filled to overflowing with chlorinated chicken. … …How people can possibly believe such nonsense is beside the point…

    I think a lot of it is to do with the utilisation by activists of the scientific illiteracy of many “environmentalists” and journalists in general. A quick bit of research indicates that “chlorine washed chicken” is in fact simply washed in water with approximately 3 to 4 times the Cl concentration found in standard UK tap-water, certainly lower than that found in public swimming-pools. By mendaciously dubbing it “chlorine washed” activists are attempting (and largely succeeding) to hoodwink the public into thinking it’s of WW1 “gas attack” concentrations – and just as lethal.

  17. “Where are you meeting him?”
    “Here, by these rocks,
    And his favourite food is roasted fox.”

    “Roasted fox! I’m off!” Fox said.
    “Goodbye, little mouse,” and away he sped.

  18. Most of the people opposed to ‘chlorine-washed chicken’ have very little problem with the chlorine itself, they just twigged that the British public hate anything that sounds ‘chemical’ so it’s a great strapline.

    They don’t like the way the chickens were farmed up to the point where the chlorine wash became necessary – iirc because of higher rates of infection among chicken?

    But I agree with BiG that it’s not as easy in practice as saying “leave it to consumer choice” (even though I’m sympathetic to the idea). Lots of chicken is consumed in restaurants and fast food shops, where sourcing tends to be poorly labelled. Ditto for processed food (chicken nuggets, ready meals etc) in the supermarket. Even if it were labelled, there simply might not be any choice to choose from, other than not buying chicken altogether – I imagine some of the big industrial chicken users, particularly for the fast food sector, would either switch entirely to the low cost option, or may mix sources so there’s no “high-welfare only” stream.

    Query whether labelling requirements would be seen as nom-tariff barriers – during a trade deal talks this would give agri-lobbyists a chance to enforce deregulation of labelling which would further reduce choice.

  19. Excavator man: I understand that the religous bars to eating pig are based on sound health reasons applicable to the bronze/iron age societies the religions live in.

    Genetically, pigs are basically humans lying down (cf “long-pig”).
    As a result, there are many parasites who thrive between pigs and humans.
    Eating pig in ancient times was a fast track to parasitical infection and death.
    With modern slaughterhouses and inspections, it is safe.So we are told. In a high-trust society, OK.

    The problem with this argument is China. They eat a lot of pig and until very recently….
    Less vulnerable to the parasites? Or just permanently infected by them?

    NB The same applies to Polar Bears. Only to be eaten as last resort and fried to a crisp. So I am told 🙂

  20. King Rat. James Clavell.

    Apparently, one of the reasons for the better survival rates of natives to Europeans in Japanese camps was their preparedness to eat the stuff that disgusted the Europeans. Cockroaches make a good stew. Apparently.

  21. @MC – I wouldn’t be suprised to see the gov.uk site being wrong or, more likely, there being a second set of laws that contradict that set and different departments working with each one…

  22. American guy from their Poultry Trade association ( or something like that ) was on the Radio 4- he said costs from barn to fork were the same in the UK as the USA. But feed was 2/3rd the costs of production, and the US has the cheapest feed in the world as far as he knew.
    If he’s right, we can just import their feed, and take some of our land out of agriculture.
    No need for arguments over chlorine washing.
    Oh, frozen peas are chlorine washed, no-one argues over that.

  23. Also, on that gov.uk page:

    You can sell minced meat that doesn’t meet these criteria if the label has the words ‘For UK market only’ followed by the national mark.

    The national mark is a printed square (□) followed by the words “for UK market only”.

    So there’s another anti-Brexit argument holed below the waterline. It’s entirely possible to have one standard for local and one standard for export, because that situation already exists. The UK doesn’t need to be part of harmonisation.

  24. @Tim the Coder
    Another quite persuasive explanation I’ve heard is that the Abrahamic religions are based on a semi-nomadic herding culture. You can’t nomadically herd pigs. So the proscription’s really against a settled agricultural society. All religions are basically conservative & a change in lifestyle would overthrow the established hierarchies & religions are basically about keeping those on the top of the heap on the top of the heap. Especially the priests

  25. RE pigs and Islam – Mohammed stole a lot of his religion from Jews and christians. I expect he stole the pig thing from the Jews. The reason he hated the jews appears to be the fact that they rejected his “new” religion and being the thin skinned sociopath he was he took his hatred to the grave and passed it on.
    With regards to the chlorinated chicken thing, whilst the Guardian was prattling on about food safety and how the eu was protecting us , there was that scandal of the contaminated eggs from the Netherlands . They didn’t make much (if any ) shrieking noises about that. Remember Orange man BAD.

  26. “Lots of chicken is consumed in restaurants and fast food shops, where sourcing tends to be poorly labelled.”

    MaccyD and BK seem to go to great length to clutter their menus and outlets with statements saying their meat comes exclusively from accredited British & Irish farms.

  27. One of my lefty mates (yes, another one. I seem to know a few. This one is the nicest and most sensible one of the lot though) moaned about chlorinated chicken, post Brexit and via a potential trade deal. Before I made the point I mentioned above here (about him sending his kids to the chlorinated swimming pool… the horror!), he said that the issue about ‘chlorinated chicken’ is that animal husbandry is so poor in the USA, that they need to do it.

    But… no, it ain’t about that. When killing and butchering anything, its foulest shitty innards *may* get spilled – it’s a sloppy old business. And chlorinated water washes it off / helps reduce the risk. Seems eminently sensible to me. In fact I’m baffled that we don’t do it!

  28. @Tim the Coder and @Bloke in Spain,

    Rather interestingly I doubt if any parasites can survive a darn good cooking. I don’t see my Italian chums suffering worms with all the Prosciutto they eat, not that I’ve looked, and various forms of preserved pig aren’t even cooked. The parasites meme was what I was brought up on, and as a result, I’ve always liked my bacon on the crispy side, but I’m not sure I really believe it any more.Are there parasites in Porky Scratchings?

    Incidentally, where did the Gadarene Swine come from to be around conveniently to act as a repository for all the demons unhoused by JC?

  29. In parts of Germany raw, uncured, minced pork is consumed, tartare-style. So the parasite thing is not that likely these days.

  30. So America, a place where lawsuits over wrongful death appear to happen, doesn’t have a problem with its own people eating Chlorinated Chicken. Then why should we?
    Presumably people are able to wash the chickens before cooking them?

  31. Problem (maybe): we aren’t sure people want to eat chlorinated water washed chicken

    Solution: require it to be labelled as such and let the market decide.

    What’s the issue? Why are these people so intent on forcing us to not eat chlorinated chicken?
    Couldn’t be that they’re little fascists who want us all to live as they decree…

  32. “In parts of Germany raw, uncured, minced pork is consumed, tartare-style. So the parasite thing is not that likely these days.”

    Which is why Germans have/had those toilet bowls with a shelf and a healthy interest in scatology.

  33. The whole Jacob and Esau (??For I am a hairy man etc?) is said to be about that, nomadic herders (or even hunter gatherers) v settled agriculture.

  34. @BiND,

    Well I’ve heard that German toilet shelf thing before, but maybe they just don’t like the splash!

  35. Chlorine is too volatile to worry about in cooked foods.

    Admittedly if you are making raw chicken sushi (yes, it does exist) it could be a very small problem, but if you are doing that you are unlikely to be using US mass-produced chicken.

  36. @excavator, a couple of sheets down the pan before you evacuate solve the splishy splashy thing. Germans, being a Yorkshire-Scottish cross without the generosity, invented the poo inspection shelf.

  37. @Grist January 25, 2019 at 10:43 am

    Unbelievably, I’ve failed to sell my raw slug recipe to the Gruandien.

    It may be that the method is too simple.

    1.Go in the garden. 2.Pick up slaug 3.Put in mouth

    Perhaps because you omitted: 4 Die or Worse

  38. @Bloke in Germany January 25, 2019 at 3:16 pm

    Raw or rare pork can transmit Hep E to humans

    .
    @BniC January 25, 2019 at 6:42 pm

    Advice now is Do Not rinse chicken under the tap

  39. And raw/uncooked lettuce can give you Listeria or STEC yet people still eat it. Risk minimisation is a trade-off.

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