On Friday, I was offered horse meat.
You no doubt remember the scandal that erupted in Europe earlier this year involving mislabeled meatballs which were distributed through supermarkets and even Ikea across 13 countries. The processed meat and meatballs labelled as pork and beef were found to contain traces of horse meat, which outraged consumers and sparked food-labelling debates worldwide. Animal welfare groups no doubt enjoyed riding the wave. I remain ambivalent.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the hostility towards a mislabeled food product. I have made choices to avoid certain substances in my life, and would be livid if I were tricked into consuming them. What I don’t understand, however, is how close-minded consumers are to actually trying horse meat. Is it not a bit of a contradiction to claim you are an omnivore, but selectively choose your prey based on emotion? The last time I checked, horses ate grass. Judging by my work with cows, they do the same. I have friends who name every cow and every horse on their farm. Both can be considered pets. All these similarities and yet we have no trouble digging into a big ol’ t-bone steak…provided it’s beef.
I discussed the concept of horse meat with an Albertan-born cowgirl. She was adamant that she would never eat horse, proclaiming it similar to cannibalism and joking about how hard it would be to go home and tell her horses she ate one of their brothers.
Smart horses, I guess. If I happened to mention to one of the cows that I was thawing out a sirloin from one of her babies, I’m certain she would continue to chew her cud, unconcerned.
I’ve been reading on consumer preferences and reasons we don’t like to eat horse meat. It seems the romantic version of a horse as a best friend, is the main reason people choose not to eat their meat. Interesting, given many consumers have little experience with horses, let alone a real connection with one. For those that do, I’m not saying you should haul ol’ Roscoe to the slaughter house, but ask: how is eating a slab of horse you’ve never known any different from that of a cow, sheep or pig?
Another argument against the consumption of horse meat is the long commutes to slaughter facilities, and lack of strict regulations around slaughter. Hmm, seems to me that as long as we allow the romanticized version of animals to dictate our consumer preferences, there will always be great distances between horses, slaughter facilities and policy.
So, by now you can guess that I accepted the offer to try horse meat. It was smoked and thinly sliced, perfect for sandwiches and entirely delicious. I didn’t think for a second about any of the horses I have loved in my life, nor do I think Jake will mind that I ate his kin, should I decide to tell him.
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