First it was blowfly eggs in a piece of chicken discovered by an Auckland woman in January this year. And now a rat’s foot has been found in a saveloy sausage by a Whanganui toddler less than two months later. There is a high ick factor here, and food for thought on the dietary choices we make.
So what should actually be in a saveloy? The humble Swiss French saveloy has quite a history. It used to be made exclusively from pig brain matter and was called cervelas or servela. Trace it back far enough and you can discover that it is ultimately derived from the Latin cerebrus. So why are we being served up a rat foot when it should be pig brains?
These days the original pig brain saveloys are made of different stuff. They contain meat and offcuts of hazy origin (pig/lamb/beef/chicken/rat) and sulphur dioxide/sulphites all sealed in a dark red edible collagen casing to make a highly seasoned sausage. The saveloy is readily available in butcher shops and supermarkets in New Zealand.
Its small version – the cheerio – is a Kiwi party favourite, especially with children, is often eaten raw with tomato sauce and dubiously nicknamed “little boys”.
In 2007, uncooked cheerios made a few Christchurch children sick with yersiniosis. The presumption was “nasty bacteria” – perhaps from the abattoir floor which the ingredients were scraped from.
But I digress. Poor little rat. How did his teeny dismembered foot get in a sealed packet of saveloys? Maybe it wasn’t a rat after all but a chicken foot as the supplier suggested. Maybe this is indeed the foot of a tiny one-day-old male chicken put in the grinder because he was not needed for egg production. That’s alright then, because, you know, chickens versus rats. Say no more.
Which brings us full circle back to the blowfly eggs in the piece of chicken. You know, blowflies occupy an important ecological niche. They are the first on site, decomposing remains, feeding on the bodies of the dead. What’s a blowfly got to do these days to find a safe place to lay eggs? We should not really be eating the blowfly’s food perhaps.
I realise I am raising so many unanswered questions about the implications of our food choices. As a vegan I am used to having my food choices scrutinised, but in moments like this I have to admit to having a little gloat. I don’t eat meat and so would never be indirectly culpable for the fate of this poor rat creature, or the blowfly eggs.
I especially feel sorry for the rat, having no affinity with blowflies. The rat was probably minding his own business, going about his everyday ratty activities when – WHAM – suddenly he is in the blender alongside the innards and off-cuts of dead animals, being ground up alive. Imagine that if you will – his little foot was all that was left over. You don’t have to be a vegan to feel for this little fella.
So it’s nice to finally find some common ground between vegans and meat eaters. Neither of us wants to see a rat foot or blowfly eggs in our food. We may not see eye to eye on the issues of brains and innards in our food, but I’ll take the wins where I can.
Lynley Tulloch is a lecturer in environmental and sustainability education at the University of Waikato. She is an animal rights activist and founder of the Starfish Bobby Calf project that featured on TVNZ’s Sunday programme.
As published in the NZ Herald