Someone’s Horsing Around With Our Meatballs

Buying meatballs from a furniture store may seem as ridiculous as buying furniture from a restaurant. But for millions of people who visit Melvin Durai's HumorIKEA’s gigantic furniture stores every year, the meatballs help make the trip worthwhile. Not only are they tasty, they come with a nice guarantee: “Less likely to break apart than our furniture.”

IKEA is a Swedish company and meatballs are extremely popular in Sweden. Most people don’t know this, but the 1977 hit song “Thank you for the music,” by legendary pop group ABBA, was originally released in Sweden as “Thank you for the meatballs.” It’s one of the reasons why the group broke apart: Anni-Frid turned vegetarian, but her boyfriend, Benny, couldn’t stop eating meatballs. (He would later produce a song called “No thank you for the veggieballs.”)

IKEA sells 150 million meatballs a year at its stores worldwide – and another 10 million are shipped directly to George Foreman’s house. Many meatballscustomers buy frozen meatballs to take home, but if you can’t wait to taste them, the store cafeteria is worth visiting, and it’s pretty easy to find. Just follow the bright signs hanging from the ceiling, which will take you several times around the second floor in a maze of concentric circles, before bringing you, finally, to a sign that says, “The cafeteria is on the third floor.” This sign is usually on the opposite end of the store from the elevators. Once you get to the third floor, you will have to go through the baby furniture section, the toddler furniture section, and the pre-teen furniture section, before arriving, finally, at the restrooms. This is okay, because this is where you are likely to find someone who has just been to the cafeteria and can give you directions.

By the time you get to the cafeteria, you will be so hungry that you could eat a horse. And that’s a good thing, because you might actually find yourself doing that.

Not intentionally, of course. IKEA does not have horsemeat on its menu and takes great precautions to ensure that its meatballs are made only from pork and beef. Nevertheless, authorities in the Czech Republic recently found traces of horsemeat in one batch of IKEA’s frozen meatballs, prompting the company to recall meatballs from almost all its European stores and release a statement emphasizing that it takes the matter seriously and will require all meat-production workers to take an advanced education course called “How to spot a horse among a group of cows.”

IKEA isn’t the only company whose European meat products have been tainted with horsemeat. Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), for example, found horse DNA in four products, including Birds Eye’s Traditional Spaghetti Bolognese, Brakes’ Spicy Beef Skewer and Farm Fresh’s Assorted Horse D’oeuvres.

Horsemeat is somehow being substituted for beef in Europe’s meat-processing plants and you don’t have to be a genius to figure out who’s probably behind this: cows.

“Cows look innocent, but it’s all a question of survival,” said FSA investigator Ned Dunsmore. “We’ve received several reports of cows whispering into horses’ ears on livestock farms, perhaps telling them that the long white truck is headed to the carrot-processing plant.”

Eating horsemeat isn’t a big deal for some people, of course. After all, 4.7 million horses are consumed annually worldwide, about half of them in China and Mexico. People in America prefer to ride and race horses, not eat them. They also love to bet on horses. That might explain some of the conversations they’re having.

“I bet there’s no horsemeat in this meatball!”

“I bet there is!”

“You’re on, buddy. Five bucks.”

“How will we find out?”

“We’ll ask that Chinese guy over there. He should know. Hey buddy, do you think there’s any horsemeat in this meatball?”

“Which meatball – the one on the plate or the one talking to me?”

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Good one Melvin.
    BTW, you might want to correct the spelling above.. for “Hors D’oeuvre” you spelt it as “Horse…”. Was that intentional?

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