WHAT BURGERS HAVE TAUGHT US

by Robin Boothroyd

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photo: L.Richarz

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll have heard about the horse meat scandal that’s swept across Europe. If not, have a butcher’s. I’ve found the whole thing absolutely hilarious (horse meat isn’t deadly; in some countries it’s a delicacy) and utterly fascinating (horses seem to be considered superior to cattle; even mythical).

The story entered the final furlong this week when Tesco, one of the supermarkets whose burgers were found to contain horse DNA, ran a double page ad in UK newspapers. What’s remarkable is that it was a poem.

***

What Burgers Have Taught Us

The problem we’ve had with some of our meat lately
is about more than burgers and bolognese.
It’s about some of the ways we get meat to your dinner table.
It’s about the whole food industry.
And it has made us realise, we really do need to make it better.
We’ve been working on it, but we need to
keep going, go further, move quicker.
We know that our supply chain is too complicated.
So we’re making it simpler.
We know that the more we work with British farmers the better.
We’ve already made sure that all our beef is from the UK and Ireland.
And now we’re moving on to our fresh chickens.
By July, they’ll all be from UK farms too. No exceptions.
For farmers to do what they do best,
they need to know they’ve got our support.
We know this because of the work we’ve been doing
with our dairy farmers to make sure they always get paid
above the market price.
We know that, no matter what you spend,
everyone deserves to eat well.
We know that all this will only work if we are
open about what we do.
And if you’re not happy, tell us.
Seriously.
This is it.
We are changing.

[Here’s a photo of the poem. You’ll have to excuse my scribbled notes.]
 

***

I’ve got a multitude of feelings about this.

Why poetry? Do they think it’s more genuine? Do they think it’s more sincere? Does it cheapen poetry? Does it enrich advertising? Can a poem be an advert? Can an advert be a poem?  

I’m undecided. I mean, it’s not the first time I’ve come across poetry in advertising (there was a McDonald’s advert a few years ago that smuggled a poem into living rooms across Britain) but I’m pretty sure this is the first printed ad I’ve seen which uses poetic techniques to sell a product, or at least to try to get the consumer to reinvest their trust in a brand. Whether it’s shrewd, manipulative, contrived, brilliant – or all of those things – it made me pay attention.

Because that’s what poetry does.

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