Butchers and abattoirs in Falmouth and Penryn say they have seen a rise in customer confidence this week after cheap meat imported from Ireland and Europe was found to contain horse.
Traditional meat retailers are confident that customers who feel betrayed by misleading packaging and dubious quality meat in some ready meals and cheap supermarket ranges are starting to make a return to the high street.
Since January 16 - when the Food Safety Authority of Ireland first announced that certain types of readymeals sold in major supermarkets Tesco, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland were found to contain horse DNA - Sainsbury’s, the Co-op, Waitrose and fast food outlet Burger King have also removed products from their shelves.
Some products made by Findus have been found to contain 100% horsemeat while Tesco Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolgnese was found to contain 60% horsemeat. All these products have now been removed from supermarket shelves and an investigation is being carried out.
Retailers have blamed suppliers while critics of the affected supermarket chains have pointed to overly complex supply routes that can see frozen ready meals sold in the UK after being assembled in France from ingredients sourced in Eastern Europe.
Butcher Martin Tonkin, from Myatts of Falmouth, thinks the root cause of the problem is supermarkets “pushing down the prices to get things so cheap” leading suppliers to include cheaper, more suspect meats in their products in a bid to bulk them out.
Robert Trevarthen, of Roskrow Abattoir near Penryn, agrees that “it’s financial gain, that’s what it’s for.”
He said: “You can go to a supermarket and buy, I don’t know, 20 economy burgers for 20p each and they’re not going to be good quality.
“These supermarkets are very powerful. Businesses likes ours would never survive a scandal like that but they’re big enough to get away with it.”
For their part, both Asda and Tesco have vowed to introduce their own DNA testing for the meat products they stock while frozen food brand Findus issued an apology and product recall after independent testing showed horse meat in their beef lasagne.
But consumer confidence in the major supermarkets is already dented and Mr Tonkin thinks that can only be “good for us and the high street in general.”
“If people shop at their local butchers then they know where the meat comes from, know where it’s sourced and you are guaranteed good quality,” he said.
“At the end of the day, if you are told it’s horse you have got the choice, if you are not told it’s horse than you haven’t.
“It’s probably been going on for years and years and nobody knew until now.”
Mr Trevarthen, who sells meat wholesale as well as running his abattoir near Penryn, is similarly confident of a boost in trade.
He said: “I’m sure it will be a positive for the smaller independent butchers. We have got four shops of our own and we have seen a marked improvement in mince and burgers especially.
“People say they get their meat from the supermarket because it’s cheaper but that’s a lot of nonsense really, it’s just a perception people have got.”
Strong policing of the trade in Cornwall means Mr Trevarthen “honestly can’t believe” that horse has found its way into beef products, he said.
Adding: “I see everything living here before it’s killed, if there was a horse in there I would know about it.”