Monday, 25 August 2014

Horse Meat - Would you eat it by choice?

Posted by Rosie

At the market last week I saw this sign advertising a horse meat stall:


Horse Meat Butcher.  It's good for your health

Now I am sure that across the world this would elicit many different reactions.  In some central Asian countries is it the most commonly eaten meat and in much of Europe, South America and Asia as a whole it is eaten in varying amounts.  However in most English speaking western countries (UK, USA, Australia etc) and it is generally seen as taboo to eat horse meat, although not actually forbidden.  China eats the highest amount of horse meat of any country in the world:  1,700,000 animals equating to 204,000 tonnes of meat (Source Wikipedia.)

So why the variations?  In central Asia, horses are the best animals to raise on the steppes for meat and are raised in the way the west raises cattle for beef.  It makes simple economic sense to eat horse meat.  However in the West horses have long been given the status of a pet or working companion and it is deemed unacceptable to eat you pet or your workmate! 

I am not sure why this status escaped horses in France - it is a well known fact that large amounts of horse meat was eaten the 1870 Siege of Paris so perhaps that was when the taboo was lost and it became acceptable.   Now in France there are specialized butchers, "boucheries chevalines", who sell horse meat.  It is at times found in supermarkets who have been allowed to sell it since the 1990's but you will not find horse meat at a "normal" butcher's shop as it is forbidden for them to sell it. 

Then there is the all too recent horse meat scandal with processed meats in the UK being sold as beef when in fact they contained large amounts of horse meat and the meat itself could not be traced back to source.  Quite possibly much of this meat entered the food chain illegally as stolen animals.

When I was in Germany as a teenager I ate horse meat but was not told until afterwards as the family I was staying with believed I would otherwise have refused it.  In fact no, I was (and still would be) happy to eat horse meat so long as it was a horse raised for purely for meat in the same way that a cow is raised for beef i.e. it was never a pet or working animal and it was correctly slaughtered and traceable.  What I do not want to eat is horse meat labelled as something else not do I want to want any type of meat that is not traceable.  It is one of the main reasons we produce our own meat as we then know exactly what we are eating and that the animals have had a good life.

For anyone who might like to try horse meat here are three recipes, taken from a 19th-century French cookbook.  Apparently it tastes not unlike beef and is a healthy meat with low amounts of fat.  

So would you eat horse meat?  Yes or No?  I'd love to hear.

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11 comments :

  1. I have spent a lot of time in France growing up and have eaten horse-meat - I don't have a problem doing so. I can understand horse owners/lovers not wanting to but it is generally clearly labelled in France so you are aware of what you are buying. And if I remember rightly if you are ordering steak in a French restaurant always ask for biftek which will be beef. Just "steak" might well be horse.

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    1. I didn't know about being careful to order biftek to be sure of getting beef - thank you for that tip!

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  2. When we went on a school trip to Germany they gave us horse meat - I don't remember being too shocked and it tasted OK! As long as you know what you are eating I am ok with it! xxx

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    1. Definitely agree with knowing what you are going to be eating then at least you can make an informed choice.

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  3. We have eaten horse meat when in France, the same as you, if it was raised to be eaten then I don't have a problem. I think as a rule we have become very ignorant about where our meat comes from, whereas in France you can buy all of the animal (brain, trotters etc) in a supermarket and even whole animals such as Rabbits and Chickens. I understand people not wanting to eat horse meat as they are pets for some people but it's the same as a cow or pig being raised purely for meat.

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  4. I've never seen anyone sell horse meat in Taiwan!! In fact, we don't have much horses here!!

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    1. Somehow I never imagined Taiwan to have a large horse population. I wonder if horse meat is ever imported?

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  5. Its a nice meat to eat actually. I grew up eating it on special occasions as its expensive but we eat it. In my country we eat dog meat (anong other things) too but I havent tried it yet. #pocolo

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  6. I feel the same way as everyone else, as long as I know what I'm eating and it's come from a traceable and reliable source I'm ok with it. I have eaten horse but don't particularly like it and my French husband has never heard the thing about if you order steak it's likely to be horse. Horse is almost never served in restaurants and a classic "steack frites" (no bif precised) will always be beef! Chevaline butchers are becoming rarer and rarer and nowadays horse meat is seen as a budget option.

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    1. I heard on the radio that a restaurant in Edinburgh (I think) serves horse meat and is doing very well - as for it being a budget option in France that might explain why the market stall seems to be doing well at the moment.

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