I chose not to focus on the traditional ownership marking of animals, nor on Jo or Russell (the new Farage) Brand, but instead on one of the marketers’ primary tools for separating us from our hard-earned (or ill-gotten) money.
If I recall a little of the history I learned from the television, brands were largely introduced at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. The driver was the very serious adulteration of foodstuffs with highly inappropriate (and unexpected) alternatives to the purchased product. The brand provided a guarantee – in the first instance – that flour, for example, was actually flour and not merely an admixture of vaguely flour-like powders. On this basis, the relatively recent mystery-meat scandals – which are no longer news, but neither is the fact that they aren’t continuing – suggest that brands no longer provide quite the guarantee that once they did. Still, as a (mostly) vegetarian I could view the horse (and other, perhaps more exotic) meat scandals with a degree of amused detachment. However, while I have been gadding about this week a much more worrying food scandal has broken. Apparently, not all goat’s cheese does what it says on the tin! Luckily, there seems to be no suggestion that it is not actually cheese (sighs of relief all round) – merely as to the animal whose lactation provided the principal raw ingredient. It would seem that there is a shortage of goat’s milk (something which seems to have been kept very quiet, presumably to prevent a middle-class revolt). I’m not sure if this is down to a shortage of goats or just poor productivity from the available goats (or both) – nevertheless, if you have a small piece of land, now could be a good time to put some money into goats (probably safer than the banks and with a higher interest rate – assuming you find goats interesting, and why wouldn’t you?). No, it seems that the milk of the humble sheep has found its way into many a supermarket’s goat’s cheese. I would like to make clear that I am not blaming the sheep here (though there may be one or two baaaad apples) as I doubt they have the intellectual horsepower to organise a conspiracy of this size – no, I suspect some human agency is to blame. Or it might by trolls: well, they do have a long-standing dispute with goat-kind – something about a t(r)oll bridge as I recall.
All of this sort of stuff should be prevented by the Food Standards Agency, but I suspect they may be understaffed. Their website doesn’t give details – it isn’t even entirely sure how many members it has on its board (though they are willing to guess it lies between 8 and 12) – but it is recruiting one new member of staff: a Field Veterinary Coordinator. The brief job description is comprised entirely of vague business-speak of a sort normally only seen in parodies – but I’m still fairly sure the successful applicant will not be on the front-line of ensuring my cheese is from the correct mammal. Maybe I need to insist on tasting every cheese in the supermarket before I buy – better to be safe-than-sorry, you understand (and clearly this is not a flimsy ruse to sate my terrible cheese-addiction).
Whilst on the topic of branding, it will come as no surprise to the regular reader that my supermarket of choice is Waitrose. Whether this is because I am hopelessly middle-class (or over-paid) or because it has been (for the last 8 years) the closest large supermarket to my home, I will leave it for you to decide. Over these years of use, I have notice a worrying and increasing tendency to support the “brand” with the aid of soi-disant celebrities. This started with chefs – Delia and Heston – but now seems to have moved on to more general celebrity with Weekend Kitchen joining the ever swelling (tumescent?) line up of cookery shows that infest the weekend mornings on television (does anyone really watch TV in the morning to decide what to make for lunch?). However, by far the most blatant celebrity on Waitress shelves is the heir to the throne, via his Duchy Originals brand. It started with a few packets of over-priced biscuits, but now he seems to have his sticky fingers in almost every isle (or every isle containing organic foods). He seemed to start with milk and then move on to eggs (and an obsession with hen’s tail colour – like the apocryphal Henry Ford, you can have any colour as long as it’s black) – however, this last week I discovered he has annexed mushrooms. I’m starting to suspect that he’s not doing it all himself – and the kids don’t seem to be helping out down on the family farm. Has he given up any hope of the throne and is going for commercial hegemony instead? He comes from a long-lived family, so he can afford to be patient. I fear that by the early 2020s, no product except those made by Duchy Originals will be available in this country – so we all better start saving now (or taking the Good Life route)! I’m still trying to work-out how to keep a goat in a one bedroom flat without so much as a window sill (let alone a window box) for it to graze upon…