This European horse meat scandal just got weirder. Initially, regulators were talking about a few shipments of beef that had maybe 30 percent horse meat in them. The horse meat had shown up in a limited number of grocery store chains. But now, the horse meat is being found many more places — in Irish Burger King franchises and in France, for instance –and in greater concentrations. (We’re talking 100 percent prime horse burger.) And some of the horse meat might actually be donkey meat. And international organized crime groups might be to blame.

The Independent reports that it’s clearer now where the horse meat came from:

It came from abattoirs in Romania through a dealer in Cyprus working through another dealer in Holland to a meat plant in the south of France which sold it to a French-owned factory in Luxembourg which made it into frozen meals sold in supermarkets in 16 countries.

The most important bit of this rambling path is where the meat started — in Romania. The Independent says that the country’s suffering from an excess of horse meat. A law recently banned horse-drawn carts from the road, which meant Romania had a lot of horses it need to dispose of. And donkey-drawn carts were also banned, “leading to speculation among food-industry officials in France that some of the ‘horse meat’ which has turned up on supermarket shelves in Britain, France and Sweden may, in fact, turn out to be donkey meat,” the Independent writes.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

But why would slaughterhouses agree to substitute horse for beef? That’s where the mafia comes in. The Guardian reports:

Experts within the horse slaughter industry have told the Observer there is evidence that both Polish and Italian mafia gangs are running multimillion-pound scams to substitute horsemeat for beef during food production. There are claims that vets and other officials working within abattoirs and food production plants are intimidated into signing off meat as beef when it is in fact cheaper alternatives such as pork or horse.

Moral of the story: Vegetarians win. At this point, it seems the safest course of action would be for all of Europe to stop eating beef until this is sorted out. Except, of course, for those who are curious to taste a special donkey-horse-cow-pig blend, now on sale at the local carniceria/boucherie/pub/grocery freezer section.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.