I was reading an article on NPR.com this morning about whether or not the United States should re-legalize slaughtering horses for human consumption after it became illegal in 2007. My first question of course was, "Really? It was legal in 2007? How come I never saw it on a menu at my local gastro-pub???".
Apparently it was, in fact, legal and practiced as recently as 2007, and is currently legal and practiced...quite a bit actually...in Canada. If people all over the world have been eating horse for centuries and our very similar neighbors to the north of us are doing it, then why are we, as Americans, so put off by the idea of eating horseys?
Lets put aside some of the debate for the moment about pharmaceuticals in the meat, or how much money could be made exporting it overseas where it's in demand, or even the debate on whether we should eat animals at all. Lets focus on the part of this that confuses me the most. Why people think eating a pig is ok but eating a horse or a dog isn't.
Nick and I were sitting in a little restaurant in Brussels a few months back perusing the menu when what to our wondrous eyes should appear...but a horse steak...the house specialty in fact. Nick and I eat meat. We eat pig and cow and goat and chicken. We eat their feet and their ears. We even eat their heads boiled and set in aspic. Why wouldn't we eat horse? The answer is...we would. And we did.
Nick ordered it with a smile on his face and that excitement that comes with trying something new(picture above). And it WAS new. And it was exciting to try something that people in that area have been eating for centuries, but that is also taboo in our own area of the world. It wasn't particularly mind blowing in flavor or texture. If you were to blindfold me and ask me to taste it without knowing what it was I might almost guess that it WAS in fact horse because it tasted unlike any other meat I've ever eaten. It wasn't all that tender and it had a bit of gamy flavor to it but it was very good in it's own way and I'm very glad we tried it.
When we returned to the hotel that evening Nick was sure to post about our horse eating experience on his facebook page...and boy 'o boy did our friends and family think it was gross.
I will never understand why people think it's gross to eat one animal but not another. People get angry when they hear about people eating dogs in Asia, yet studies have shown that pigs are almost as smart as dogs in their own way(I mean...there's no dog/pig IQ test out there but you get the picture). They're social and curious. Loyal and intelligent. They're pets too for goodness sake. But we eat one and not the other.
And why do people think it's crazy when I tell them how much I love chicken feet or head cheese(boiled parts of a pig's head set in animal gelatin). Why is eating the pig's butt(ham) better than it's ear? Personally I find using and eating all parts of an animal to be a noble, and also lucky for me, delicious thing to do. What a waste it would be to slaughter a pig and only eat it's "ham", loin, belly(bacon) and ribs.
So I suppose the point of this post was to make you think about the food you eat and why you eat it, or for that matter, don't. I think about this whenever I travel to a new continent, country or even region of the good 'ol USofA.
So if the powers that be in the US do decide to re-legalize the use of horse for human consumption will you be willing to give it a try? If you're worried that you won't like the way it tastes I can tell you right off the bat...it doesn't taste like chicken...but neither does lamb, or beef, or pork, or duck or.................you get the idea.