Photo: cindy47452, Flickr
But if one Missouri lawmaker has his way, horse-slaughter facilities could re-open in the U.S., a move that has both its supporters and its vocal critics, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and USA Today reported.
Missouri state Rep. Jim Viebrock, R-Republic, introduced the bill earlier this year to allow horse processing plants to open in the Show-Me-State, the papers reported. Pro-slaughter advocates say the move will help the equine industry, hurt by the closure of the country's three horse slaughterhouses. But anti-slaughter groups say it's the recession, not the absence of slaughterhouses, that is hurting horses.
But even if the ban were lifted, would Americans dig in?
Today, about 100,000 horses a year are shipped to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada for export to Europe and Asia, the Post-Dispatch reported, about the same number that were slaughtered in the U.S. before the 2007 American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act closed down remaining facilities.
Despite the American taboo, it's found in sausages, steaks and stews around the world.
The meat is eaten smoked or as sausage in the Netherlands. It's popular in Kazakhstan as sausage, smoked or dried. It's sometimes stewed in Sauerbraten in Germany. It's eaten raw in Belgium in a kind of "horse tartar," and it's also eaten raw in Japan. Smoked and cured horse meat is served as a cold cut in Sweden.
In Britain, horse has been out of fashion on the dining table since the 1930s, but celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has urged the Brits to reconsider the horse taboo. In his British television program The F-word, Ramsay admits he has eaten horse and says it has a "slightly gamey" taste and is "packed with protein," the Telegraph reported in 2007.
When Time magazine journalist Joel Stein wasn't able to purchase horse meat to sample in the U.S. in 2007, he had a friend in Vancouver ship him a half a pound of salted, cured meat she picked up in a local shop. Getting his wife to try it, Stein reported, wasn't easy.
"I kept waiting to slice it up to serve with goat cheese and crackers and an earthy bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but my wife Cassandra kept saying she wasn't hungry yet. Cassandra, I was learning, takes her clichés pretty seriously. When she was finally hungry enough to eat a horse, I cut us some thin slices," Stein wrote in Time.
"It turned out to be pretty awesome -- a sweet, rich, superlean, oddly soft meat, closer to beef than venison. I put some slices over a salad of arugula with olive oil and a splash of lemon juice and some caramelized onions. It was like a livelier, lighter braseola."
Almost makes you want to try it. Almost.