Hidden Inflation Everywhere, From Watered-Down Bourbon To Horse-Meat Chili

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter   www.testosteronepit.com   www.amazon.com/author/wolfrichter

We’ve had an endless series of products whose ingredients have been cheapened in order to maintain the price. Consumers won’t be able to taste the difference, the theory goes. So, as the horse-meat lasagna scandal in Europe is spiraling beautifully out of control, we’re now getting hit where it hurts: Maker’s Mark is watering down its bourbon.

Unlike the horse-meat folks, Maker’s Mark announced it. They even had an official reason. “Fact is, demand for our bourbon is exceeding our ability to make it, which means we’re running very low on supply,” said the missive that COO Rob Samuels sent to his customers. They’d add water to the remaining batch—it would lower alcohol content from 45% to 42%—so that there’d be enough for everybody.

The uproar was immediate. The company, a subsidiary of Beam, Inc., though still run by the founding family, had to deal with the clamor. Chairman Emeritus Bill Samuels, Jr. crafted the response. The company’s focus over the past 50 years has been on “product quality and consistency.” And the primary measure of that consistency was “the unique Maker’s Mark taste profile,” he wrote. “That’s all that truly matters in the end.”

So why not just run out and play on scarcity? Knob Creek, my personal favorite and also a Beam subsidiary, had done that successfully in 2009. Samuels did not provide an answer. Or why not raise the price to lower demand instead of watering down their bourbon? Well, he wrote, “We don’t want to price Maker’s Mark out of reach.”

Fighting inflation by watering down bourbon. But there was nothing to worry about. He and Rob personally tested batches of watered-down bourbon, and they all had “the same taste profile that we’ve always had.” Their Tasting Panel and “structured consumer research” agreed: “there’s no difference in the taste.”

Nobody noticed a difference in the taste either when horse meat replaced beef in frozen lasagna. It was found out through testing. Turns out, there was a vast trading scheme that involved slaughter houses in Romania, traders in Cyprus and the Netherlands, and companies in France, including a subcontractor of the brand Findus, which shipped the meat to tax haven Luxembourg where it was manufactured into frozen dishes that then spread to freezers across Europe.

At first it was just lasagna in Britain. Then lasagna in France and elsewhere. Now they’re finding horse meat in other frozen foods. In France, for example, cannelloni, spaghetti bolognese, moussaka, and hachis parmentier were hastily yanked off the shelves at six supermarket chains. On Wednesday, another French brand, Picard, found horse meat in its frozen lasagna and chili con carne. It suspended the sale of all products containing “beef” that had been supplied by one of the parties in the Findus web.

In Britain, an investigation has started. Catherine Brown, chief executive of the Foods Standards Agency, called for retailers to test their dishes containing “pork,” “chicken,” and other meats. Retailers were currently focusing on “comminuted” beef, she explained, “the stuff where meat is ground up to the point that it is not readily recognizable.”

While I have not knowingly eaten horse meat in Europe, I had horse meat in Japan, carnivore that I am. As sashimi, served raw, thinly sliced, with raw onions, fresh ground ginger, in a vinegar-soy sauce. Delicious. But there is a dilemma. In France, horse meat consumption has plummeted from 1.8 kg per capita (4 pounds) in 1979 to a measly 0.34 kg (12 ounces) in 2009. It now makes up only 0.4% of total meat consumptions—not counting the “beef” in frozen foods. In other European countries, demand for horse meat has collapsed similarly. Prices are low. The meat isn’t toxic. So why not feed it to people who don’t know what they’re eating? Just grind it up, stuff it in manufactured lasagna or whatever, hide it inside an enticing package, call it “beef,” freeze it, and when consumers stick it in the microwave, they’ll never know. Because they can’t taste the difference.

Industrial terrorism,” it was called in France. Findus and every company in the trading web claim to have been victimized, much like consumers. But if they’d wanted to know what that cheap meat was and where it had come from, they could have found out. Or they could have refused to buy meat of shady origin. But they didn’t want to. What mattered was the cost of the meat. It would keep profit margins high and avoid price increases.

As the belts of consumers are being tightened notch by notch, price pressures become enormous. Consumer product companies are reacting in a myriad ways [to the.... The “Pauperization of Europe”]. Some are disclosed or obvious, others are hard to detect. But it’s an insidious form of inflation that doesn’t show up on the price tag and isn’t counted in the inflation statistics. But you’re eating lower quality food, and you’re getting less for your money that is constantly being debased, and then, when you finally had it, you end up self-medicating with watered-down bourbon.

So I love steaks. Rare. But now we find out about the potentially deadly industry practice of mechanical tenderization. It has been going on for decades, with innumerable victims. Yet the industry resists even the most basic labeling requirement that would save lives. Read.... The Beef Industry’s Deadly Secret: “Blading” and “Needling”

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devo's picture

At least it's still an ungulate. ?

steveo77's picture


Would they tell?

If the Earth was going to fly through a "cloud" of meteors, would "they" tell you?

Supposedly, something as small as 400ft across could have earth devastating effects.   What if we were going to fly through a high density zone of meteors say 50 ft to 600ft in diameter?   And take maybe 200 serious hits?


WTFUD's picture

Relax folks the peoples' bankers JPM are a large stakeholder in FINDUS. Folks we've come to trust so chill OK. Wonder what's in their fish fingers? My guess is Elite womens Afterbirth as it does not lose its fishy musk throughout the processing.

q99x2's picture

I ate a beetle once.

steve from virginia's picture



"“the unique Maker’s Mark taste profile,”


What is a 'taste profile'? Something either tastes a certain way or it doesn't. Beam Co. uses a computer to analyze its 'product'. What a fiasco. The loss of customers will offset any savings in the distillery process. Penny-wise and dollar foolish. Fire the manager and hire another who promises the old school quality.


Meanwhile, I've been over here @ Zero Hedge for years beating the same drum over and over. Our incredible waste-based society presents us with a set of choices:


 - you can drive a car or  you can: ________________________ (fill in the blank). 


________________________ (fill in the blank) can be anythng: get a good job, get university educated, get married, have a family, have a happy, fulfilling life, live in a nice town or city, have medical care when need be, have something to eat, be creative ... drink alcoholic beverages that aren't made out of antifreeze ...


all of this versus driving a car.


The choice is always made to drive the car and the parts of the world that we love and need are being fed into the meat grinder so that we can drive some more. We will drive until it's too late and the human race and much of life becomes extinct.


Extinct ... it lasts for a long time ... a unique, intelligent species that might have gone to other worlds, that might have changed the universe, that might have done extraordinary things ... gone like the Dodo bird and Moa ... because it is too lazy and stupid to give up sitting in a metal box no different than running a sewing machine in a sweatshop.


Drive a car or have decent whiskey. I know what choice I would make ... have already made.


Get rid of the goddamned cars.

Room 101's picture

Never name a horse...cuz you never know when you'll have to eat it. 

NoWayJose's picture

Plenty of inflation is visible too. On the invisible side I had three experiences today. A box of Valentines candy had 20% less candy separated by wide plastic dividers. Grabbed two burritos for lunch. Paid 20% more than last year but got mostly lettuce. Did an appetizer takeout for dinner and for $15 got two small sliders, 4 Mozz sticks and 6 wings. Cereal boxes are lighter, coffee packages smaller, etc, etc

CheapBastard's picture

Loaded with pain killers, antibiotics and hormones the horse meat is. No wonder those EU men are growing bigger tits then the women from the horse hormones, and yet happy all the time (from the pain killers in the meat)!



Sudden Debt's picture

no shit!

In France it's called "poitrine" :)

Well, it's pretty clear. Don't buy frozen food.

I buy my food at the local markets. SURE!! The kids sometimes say it looks different thant the food on the pictures in the stores.

But if you eat fresh food, the taste is so much different!!

When I eat junkfood, I constantly get that feeling like you're eating something with powder... E this and E that's...


RuiNsPro's picture

I didn't know horse meat is cheaper.

Dr. Sandi's picture

I know this makes me a heartless asshole. But I'd rather eat grass fed horse than feedlot beef.

Not just from a nutritional viewpoint, but also, I've never had a steer try to kick me until I'm dead.

CynicLaureate's picture

The problem is that there are numerous chemical poisons (anti-fly spray, medicines, herbicides) that are not approved for cattle that are permitted for horses.  Caveat comedenti!


Bear's picture

Check out the new Giddy-up cut from Omaha Steaks

Atlantis Consigliore's picture

flash, just out, the ANAL-ysts spotted insider pooping at the CARNIVAL,   buy recommendation.   the senile guy looking for a big poop.

SEC investgating,   CFTC watching porn.   over and out.  RUN!!!! 

RUN, the mainstream media are PIMPING homes, before y all miss outl.

get me some senile actors to pimp gold NOW before it collapses to 1000.   Bonds....4% next year 20% losses.

and and and....ITS GONE. ALL OF IT. 



rwl160's picture

a McDonalds Happy meal will last.. buy one put it on a plate and 3 months later it still looks like it just came out of the Happy meal box.. and probably still taste the same..

The Miser's picture

Whoa on the horse meat.

steveo77's picture



Kind of funny, kind of....from an email

Big Gov and their "partners" have a real conundrum on their hands, they can't figure out whether they should kill us, or make us produce.   

You have to feel sorry for them, the sheeple are a real problem.

Dr. Sandi's picture


Big Gov and their "partners" have a real conundrum on their hands, they can't figure out whether they should kill us, or make us produce.   

From what I'm reading, about half us us already ARE produce. See those big leafy heads everywhere you go?

And I'd like to point out that California and Florida are only two vegetative states.

ZeroAvatar's picture

It's tough to be saddled with so many decisions.

tmorris's picture

Private industry's version of "hedonics"!  Why not?

billsykes's picture

Was on the plane once, was served a hot pocket with "chicken rib meat" 

MMMMM chicken ribs.  Noticed it after I was starving and ate it, never got the runs going into a 3rd world country. 


mrdenis's picture

You haven’t truly lived until you have tasted premium liquor that was first dribbled down the bare chest of an international Playboy model.

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2012/10/01/german-liquor-company-pours-its-alcohol-down-models-bare-breasts-before-bottling/#ixzz2KuluP96f

Dr. Sandi's picture


You haven’t truly lived until you have tasted premium liquor that was first dribbled down the bare chest of an international Playboy model.

Now that's some world class lick-her.

camaro68ss's picture

They are selling horses for butcher at $50-$100 a head in northern california, there typically "used up" broken legs, bones, ect. There then shipped to canada to be butchered. compared to beef at $5,500 a head, horse is cheap and a great filler for inflation. haha

nofluer's picture

"$5500 a head"??? Who's dollars? Jerkoffistan's? I was watching the televised rural/farm auctions the other day and they sold ONE prime Angus bull for $6,000, and others with lesser bloodlines for from $2500, to mostly around $3000.

Last summer I paid $750 @ for two bred Jersey heifers (milk cows) - delivered. (The winter's hay cost me about the same amount.)

If someone's paying five grand for a beef carcass - I want to know where the line forms to sell him stuff! (Hey, senior? You steel wan a leetle burro?)

cynicalskeptic's picture

Big problem with broken down race horses sold for meat - they're full of all kinds of subsatnces used for doping - not at all healthy to consume.

Hulk's picture

Looks like the galloping Gourmet was 40 years too early !!!

Conax's picture

Huh.. Snooty Euros are hoss eatin' sumbitches.  (just kidding, Klaus)

Horse meat was (or is) legal for a long time in New Jersey.  Mostly for dog food and burritos.

tenpanhandle's picture

True story this... once in an off the beaten pass taco restaurant in interior Mexico I ordered a burrito from a matronly women behind the counter.  She gave me a blank stare as I repeated my request several times.  Finally an old man sitting next to me at the counter turns to me and says in a low voice and in perfect textbook Mexican accented English "senior, you are asking for a leetle burro".

nofluer's picture

You musta been REAAAAL hongry!

Herkimer Jerkimer's picture





Maybe that explains the sudden change in the President's Choice frozen patties up in Canada?

Or it just might be low-grade sawdust.



Lord Drek's picture

We all like to joke about Soylent Green, back in the backs of oir minds we know that food manufacturers will one day begin to infuse man-flesh into food products. "These are political dissidents/murderers/rapists/crimimals", they'll explain. "We're not putting good people into our meals."


andrewp111's picture

I think they will have to steam the man flesh at a high temperature and process it through pigs before serving meat to humans - just like they process excess prisoners in China today. Can't have Mad Cow and CJD being spread by processed meat, you know.

edifice's picture

It's quite nutritious, actually. Has the complete amino acid profile. And I mean, complete.

cynicalskeptic's picture

People taste like pork - or so said Jpaanese hold outs at the end of WWII who resorted to cannibalism.

This may be a a solution for the shortage of pigs going to the slaughterhouse because of high feed costs.


tenpanhandle's picture

Costs an arm and a leg, though.

mjcOH1's picture

Makes you wonder where all the liposuction clots end up, aye?   One man's loss is another man's gain....

jharry's picture

You guys are too uptight.  You need to smooth out, to displace your worries with Willie Wonka's new candy, Don't Give a Shits.

Go with the flow.


The Dude

Aegelis's picture

This reminds me of the 'pink slime' incident.  I work for a company that makes drug testing kits for hospitals, reference labs and law enforcement.  Now and then the FDA makes their rounds looking for a speck of dust as a reason to shut us down.  I can't help but wonder why they're not more concerned with edible than inedible materials.  Stuff that gives people cancer instead of tests to measure how much cancer drug is in someone's system.  I know the answer is liability.  The FDA is protecting medical professionals from being sued, not the general public from going to the hospital.

ReeferMac's picture

One of the reasons I buy as much of my food locally as I can. Packaged food is convenient, but I prefer to meet and talk to the farmer who grew my stuff. Can do the same w/ the woman I get my Beef and Pork from (runs the farm w/ her husband).

falak pema's picture

thats the price and the holy grail of US print to infinity; controlled inflation to devalue debt via currency wars; all the while keeping $ supremacy in watered down USd hegemony protected by big military stick. 

Our money your problem stays the meme, and if you don't like it, its Armageddon. 

The world will have to wake up to that challenge as will the US people; as its now "people cancerous"; this Oligarchy version of Pax Americana belongs to the global 0.1 %...pick your sides, it them or its us the 99.9%

lakecity55's picture

You won't have to worry about the Big Stick much longer.

Skeeter's controllers have ordered him to gut the military in order for the UN to send in its armies to occupy the US.

DosZap's picture

Skeeter's controllers have ordered him to gut the military in order for the UN to send in its armies to occupy the US.

Yep, but there is a major downside to this, they are bringing home battle hardened Vets, that will for the most part side with their Oath(to protect & Defend the COnst first and foremost), and the rest that still are true believers.

lakecity55's picture

Those Blue Helmets would look good above my fireplace.

"LC, is that a Belgian?"

"French. A 300 yard shot at dusk."

"Still so lifelike! Any Kenyans?"

"Nah, round here, they went onto pikes and trees."

"The eyes sort of follow you around."

"Steady, fella. That's the new Patriot Maker's Mark. It's back to full strength. Go easy on it."

ZeroAvatar's picture

Blue helmets make it so much easier to distinguish 'friend' from 'foe'.

MrBoompi's picture

Yes, you shouldn't eat any machanically tenderized meat, or pre-ground meat, without cooking it adequately.  Those pesky little bacteria love it when they are properly innoculated onto their growth medium!  And there's nothing inherently wrong about one source of meat over another, as long as the consumer knows what he/she is eating and it's safe to do so. 

Cheating and fraud in the food, cosmetics, and drug industries is as old as food, cosmetics, and drugs themselves.  Will there be calls for more regulation or more inspection?  I doubt it.  The excuse is always "Our economy is too fragile to prosecute".  Not because its true, but because the regulators want a job with Horsemeat Enterprises Inc when they quit their government job.

hannah's picture

it isnt important WHAT is in the food.....as long as it is labeled properly. the problem is the deceit. what else are they lying about...broken glass nasty chemicals. it is the fraud and lack of trust in what we are buying that is the real problem.