Should Americans be Eating More Horse?


by Mark Hay,  Modern Notion


Back in 2013, when consumers in Europe learned that many of their meat goods were secretly mixed with or even 100{f2533179b7c7e7cbdbc11018732de14c82f3d44c9f1e829e9a046cc47141a2e6} horse meat, they freaked out.

For some, it was just the notion that they'd been lied to about the contents of their food that was repugnant, but in a few countries like the U.K. the very notion of eating horses at all, even if knowingly, was odious.

And as it turns out that aversion may be even stronger in America, where restaurants that tried to have a little tongue-in-cheek fun by serving (clearly labeled) horse steaks after the European kerfuffle had to back down after they received bomb threats and hate mail followed by dissuading visits from the Food and Drug Administration.

This rabid aversion to horsemeat is not the norm amongst humanity. Many countries consider horse a delicacy, including China, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia, which are all rabid per capita consumers of horseflesh. China, Kazakhstan, and Mexico (the latter more of an exporter than a consumer) each render over 100,000 tons of horsemeat a year. A taste for horse is a bit rarer in Europe, thanks to ancient prohibitions in Greek, Roman, and Judeo-Christian culture (Pope Gregory III banned the consumption of horsemeat as pagan in 732 C.E., but many suggest this was more about saving horses for war than anything else).

Yet most of the Western world got over these taboos in the 19th century, when famines forced people to look to unusual meats that people wound up developing a taste for—in Belgium, France and Sweden, horsemeat still manages to outsell mutton today. The turn in these other countries makes it especially curious as to why America remains especially culturally and even legally opposed to horseflesh.

As it turns out, we too had a brief spike of horsemeat eating in the late 19th and through much of the 20th century. As the utility of horses as draft animals faded and before meat supply chains could catch up with the demands of rapidly growing populations, outlets like the New York Times (in 1895) openly declared that the best use for horses in the modern era would be as a meat source. Demand for the meat spiked in times of scarcity, like World War II and the 1970s, but retained some currency as a regional and acceptable delicacy right up until the high disco era.

Despite some piecemeal municipal and state-level legislation around the nation, horse slaughter in America continued small-scale until 2007, when the last equine abattoir in Illinois was forced to shutter by an implicit federal ban passively enacted the year before. The ban actually just pulled federal funding for inspections of horse abattoirs, making slaughter functionally impossible (and leading Americans with excess horses to start shipping 160,000 beasts to Canada and Mexico in stressful and harmful transit operations to be slaughtered instead—a practice that other lawmakers have tried yet failed to oppose with start-and-stop and limited legislation).

President Barack Obama made a brief bid in 2011 to end this implicit ban by reauthorizing funds for the inspection of horse abattoirs, probably hoping to re-launch a small industry and handle the issue of this dangerous horse transit across international borders. And his efforts did lead to an attempt to create a new slaughterhouse in New Mexico, which was certified and ready to go by 2013.

Yet as soon as horse lovers got word of the new project, they started spamming it with lawsuits and hate email, and eventually the 2014 omnibus spending bill outright banned funding for horse inspections once again, reinstating the 2006 prohibition and killing the new abattoir.

In the 1970s, the U.S. wild horse population was dwindling, preservation efforts now lead us to have about 100,000 wild horses, 50,000 in the southwest and 50,000 held in protected facilities, which is more than the environment can support and which is growing faster than ever expected. Maintaining these horses costs over $80 million per year, and not long ago Congress took away game managers' rights to cull and kill horses to prevent them from overrunning the ranges.

This sentimentality will ultimately lead to the slow death of these horses and many other animals in their damaged habitats—all unfortunate situations which could be avoided if we just embraced horses as food for those with no compunctions about eating well-regulated, fairly-treated, and ethically slaughtered animals.

And there's every reason for many of us to embrace this meat. Although draft horses would be gamey, many who've eaten wild horse find it sweet and sumptuous. And like many other ungulates that we do eat (bison, deer and elk), its meat is healthier than beef—lower in fat, higher in protein, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids.




Read the original article on Modern Notion.   Copyright 2015. 

Source:  Business Insider

Onaqui HMA 02/27/12 by BLMUtah, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  BLMUtah 

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