Posted by: patenttranslator | February 10, 2013

Is That Frozen Horse Meat In Your Translation?

It appears that European consumers in France and several other countries including Sweden and United Kingdom who have been buying products that should have contained frozen beef products including lasagnas, spaghetti with meatballs and cottage pies were instead stuffing their faces with frozen horse meat smuggled onto the tables of hungry consumers in Western Europe from abattoirs in Romania.

The latest scandal among other things provides a good example of the entrepreneurial vision and cooperation between the Rumanian and French mafia. You have to do something with old and sick horses, and feeding horse meat to people in other countries must have seemed like a really good idea to mafia bosses who must have been laughing very, very hard as the plan was working like clockwork. Several questions come to mind on this side of the pond, which according to our media here has not been affected by this latest saga of efficiency and strategic thinking of enterprising mafiosi applied to the frozen food business.

Doesn’t horse meat taste very different from beef, even if it is frozen, ground and placed in colorful packaging with all kinds of seals on it attesting to the product quality?

Why did it take the sophisticated consumers in Europe several months before the real provenance of the meat was discovered when one would think that a single bite should suffice?

Consumers everywhere seem to have gotten used to being fed horse meat or worse as a result of globalization over the last couple of decades.

Most products sold in Western countries now, from hammers and textile to furniture, are now manufactured in countries who sell to their trading partners abroad shoddy products based on extremely cheap local labor. The chair that I am sitting on writing these prophetic words was made in China, and although the chair still works more or less as designed, the upholstery is cracked and peeling off and several screws did not even fit into the holes prefabricated in the chair frame when I was putting it together. The modern world is a paradise for multinational mafia enterprises: When I bought a telephone card from a kiosk vendor with Russian accent on Václavské Square in Prague last year, the card stopped working after I made three local calls because the entire downtown Prague is controlled by Russian mafia. God knows what kind of meat is in the “Václavské sausages” sold on the square.

Even if I spend more on a product, that is not a guarantee anymore that I am buying good quality in a world where everything is based on marketing and advertising – or in other words, lies.

After I bought remanufactured toner cartridges off the Internet, which started streaking after a couple of weeks, I spent twice as much on a “genuine HP toner cartridge” purchased at my local Office Depot store. The cartridge started streaking after 3 weeks and I am using my Cannon printer instead. Maybe the Cannon distribution chain has not been penetrated yet by the “toner cartridge mafia” because the printer is still working flawlessly.


I imagine that it must be even more difficult to tell what is in a translation if you are a translation buyer these days. As the main players in the modern translation industry are large translation agencies, these agencies will also naturally gravitate to places where labor costs are as cheap as possible.

Every day I have to delete many e-mails from “professional translators” offering me their services in hilarious English. Those who can write grammatically correct English, which is a small minority, are sometime clearly insane.

Consider the following sentence that I just fished out from my mailbox:”There is nothing in the world of language which is beyond the scope of my inquiring mind and jubilating spirit. Therefore, I’m applying for this very position of Freelance Translator. May I take this very word to pay my personal but still enormous tribute to all the activities which are being carefully implemented by the most peace-keeping and exceptional organization ever. Let us all dream and not make dreams our master and think not make thoughts our aim, but still even if we meet with Triumph and Disaster let us treat those two imposters just the same“.

I would be really afraid to meet this “translator” on a deserted street at night in a city because there is no telling what demons are lurking in the depths of his deranged soul.

And yet, these “frozen horse meat translations” from people who can’t translate because they lack the necessary education, experience and often even a sound mind, are sometime bought for cheap by fly-by-night agency operators, fixed up so that the frozen horse meat would look like a normal translation, and then sold to unsuspecting clients.

You can’t really know for sure what kind of meat is sold in a frozen dinner package. It makes a lot of sense to go to your local butcher if you want to make sure that the meat you are eating and feeding your family is not going to make you sick. People still do that even today, but mostly only in small towns. When we lived in the small town of Petaluma, California, our butcher was an immigrant from Italy who took pride in his work and products and who would never sell bad meat to his customers. His name was Angelo.

And it also makes a lot of sense to go straight to a translator that you know on a personal level if you want to know what is in fact in your translation, instead of using a broker who may be putting into it really strange, unhealthy, but cheap ingredients, which can be then resold at record profits once they are provided with the right kind of packaging.


  1. Peace-maker! This made me think of Farscape.

    Jubilating spirit sounds like something my meditation teacher, a monk from Sri Lanka, would say.


    • Peace maker, equalizer, and widow maker are also synonyms for “a gun”.


  2. Wow! “May I take this very word to pay my personal but still enormous tribute to all the activities which are being carefully implemented by the most peace-keeping and exceptional organization ever”?

    I guess it’s no frozen horse meat, but frozen geckos.


    • Frozen geckos?

      You have a sick mind.


      • Well, kind of small alligators for Grace Jones. ;o

        This funny. “I’m applying for this very position of Freelance Translator.” What a translator!


  3. There goes a man (or a perhaps woman) with the heart of a poet, wandering but lost and in today’s confusing world of global opportunities 🙂


    • That’s one interpretation. But I think that he is probably just insane.


  4. […] It appears that European consumers in France and several other countries including Sweden and United Kingdom who have been buying products that should hav…  […]


  5. I really enjoyed reading this post, your simile is brilliant and, I admit, even funnier for me as I am vegetarian!! although all this fuss about horse meat has me puzzled; in my meat-eating days I used to eat horse meat so I don’t see what all the fuss is about… you eat one animal you can eat them all, surely?
    You are absolutely spot on and the state of affairs in the translation world really saddens me as it seems that the only thing that matters is money (then again, isn’t this true for most things?). I lost track of how many emails I get saying the quotes I give for translations are too high. I used to be upset, now I no longer care. I know how much I should charge, I know I have been a serious translator for almost 24 years and quality does matter to me, so if they want to have their website/product specification/press release translated by someone who has studied some Italian in high school (and charges peanuts) in my opinion they deserve what’s coming to them…
    The email you quote is hysterical and scary at the same time (but mostly hysterical). And pretty impenetrable too….


  6. You make a really good point and normally I would have quoted your article to clients – if I were not a Romanian! I admit that there are tons of bad products and services and translations streaming out of Russia, Romania or China, but for a professional translator in these countries, to see your country named as an example of mediocre, if not bad quality, to realize that maybe your efforts to provide a good quality service are not even perceived by clients because of the same inability to tell beef from horse meat… It’s so disheartening!


    • Hi Astrid:

      It could have been just as easily horse meat from Italy or another country with a strong presence of Mafia in the economy.

      Mafia is often involved in the meat business in many countries. For example, it is known that distribution of meat has been controlled for decades in Japan by their version of Mafia called Yakuza.


  7. Hi Federica:

    Horse meat is much cheaper than beef, partly because many people refuse to eat it out of respect for these magnificent animals.

    Hence the great savings realized by the enterprising mafiosi when horse meat is substituted for beef.

    One really has to admire how well they understand the nature of the contemporary economic model.


  8. At the end of the day, as usual, it’s all about greed and money. Sad isn’t it?


    • “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”

      (Timothy 6:10)


      • ain’t that true..


  9. QUOTATION OF THE DAY (New Your Times, March 10, 2013)

    “I would still eat these meatballs. No problem.”

    ZUZANA NAVELKOVA, an official at a Czech laboratory who discovered horse meat in Swedish meatballs, fueling a firestorm over food labeling in Europe.

    Steve, the same would be said by translation agencies who hire post-editors for those who care only about prices. Quality? Well, horse meat tastes about the same. (There may come someone commenting with a “huh…” below?)


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