Monday, March 16, 2009

Would you like some horse meat for dinner, Herr Junqueira?

(A partir de agora vou blogar em inglês mesmo, espero não atrapalhar ninguém)

Today I've eaten horse meat for the second time in my life. Both during the last month, after I moved to Switzerland.

Back in Brazil, eating horse meat is a big no-no. I thought the fact I was breaking a taboo would make it taste better, but I was disappointed. The flavor is not there and the texture feels like gum. I'm not impressed at all.

The food at my office is really wonderful, but proper beef is seldom served, for reasons I'm still trying to understand. I'm not sure if it's because of the high price of beef in Switzerland, or because people are not so used to beef here. I'd guess it's probably both.

Farmers in Switzerland receive world-class subsidies to produce food, including beef, and the import tariffs are high. The result is 60% of the food consumed here comes from local producers.

There are many reasons for this, the most interesting being environmental concerns, and to keep the Swiss life style of charming quiet rural areas and slow, small cities. Apparently the subsidies and tariffs have the desired effect, but the cost is that the price of beef is much higher here. It's a nuisance, but the Swiss don't care.

From the little I've learned so far, the agricultural subsidies are key to understand Switzerland. If it one day joined the European Union, it would certainly have to drop its subsidies, even if slowly, as did Portugal and Spain. The most likely result is the rural areas would become poorer and uglier, while the cities would grow too much. Switzerland would lose its charm, or at least this is what the subsidies supporters say.

I bet there must be a less poetic explanation out there, maybe something related to the power of small rural communities in the political stage in Switzerland, or a secret elite farmers conspiracy :-).

All I'm sure is there's no beef around here, so Horse Meat will have to do for me, at least for now.