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Eating Horse, the delicious meat we've forgotten

Updated on February 27, 2016
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Horse; food, friend, or both?

Many people feel a bit squeamish at the thought of eating horse. Sure they're beautiful beasts and we tend to think of them more as companions than we do food. However there's been a long history of eating horsemeat all across the world, it's certainly not dangerous and the nutritional profile would suggest it's even healthier than beef!

Especially over the last few years I've started to see more 'exotic meats' show up in stores; ostrich, crocodile, kanagaroo... is there any real basis in our cultres idea that it is okay to eat some animals but not others, regardless of meat nutrition, taste and quality?

Horse Lasagne, Unusual but quite Healthy
Horse Lasagne, Unusual but quite Healthy | Source

Can Humans really eat Horse?

During the Palaeolithic era, Horse was a plentiful and perfectly acceptable source of food. True we are no longer cavemen yet our digestive systems have changed very little since those times. Unless you have an allergy to Horsemeat (and if you can eat other meats without issue then you should be fine) then there is no medical reason at all why you cannot enjoy a juicy Horse steak.

If you still have some doubts then consider this; it's a bit like 'Beef light'. A gamey, red meat with nutrients similar to Beef only with less fat. If you're following a Paleo or Atkins style diet then please do add a fatty sauce on top. For those out there who prefer the low-fat style of life, Horse would be perfect for you! It's lean, healthy and packed full of protein.

It's not all Burgers!
It's not all Burgers! | Source

Horse around the World

In Asia, Horsemeat is freely sold and widely consumed; in fact many consider it a delicacy for its tender texture and low-fat content. The Japanese dish of Basashi is composed of thinly sliced raw horse served with soy sauce, ginger and onions.

Several European countries, including Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Solvenia and Austria, commonly consume horse as part of specially made sausages, salamis and as cold-cuts.

In the UK, Horsemeat is legal for consumption, yet it has become taboo and the market is virtually non-existent due to the view of Horses as human companions.

In the USA there are several state laws (Texas and Illinois in particular) which ban the slaughter of Horses for human consumption. This does mean that getting Horsemeat in the USA would be potentially illegal so maybe wait until you take a holiday abroad to try it.

So it’s safe to eat and apparently quite tasty, so why are we not buying Horse steaks alongside our Beef, Chicken and Lamb?

Nutritional Profile of Horse Meat

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 100g
Calories 133
Calories from Fat36
% Daily Value *
Fat 4 g6%
Saturated fat 1 g5%
Unsaturated fat 3 g
Carbohydrates 0 g
Sugar 0 g
Fiber 0 g
Protein 21 g42%
Cholesterol 52 mg17%
Sodium 53 mg2%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.
Horses are beautiful, but then Lambs are pretty cute too.
Horses are beautiful, but then Lambs are pretty cute too. | Source

The Answer lies almost 1400 years ago

Well the answer is a Religious one; as Christianity began to gain popularity in the eighth century, Pope Gregory III condemned the ritualistic pagan practice of eating Horsemeat. Horse was eaten as a religious practice by worshippers of Gods such as Odin, amongst others. Although this was not the only reason Horse was eaten (Iceland in particular relied on the meat as a primary source of food) the influence of Christianity caused a sharp decline in consumption. The modern view of a Horse as a pet (as in the case of dogs) also makes many people wary of eating the animal and is the basis of banning the sale of horsemeat in the USA.


Would you try Horse Meat?

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Would You Try Horse?

Should we eat Horse? Well in today’s world of grossly expensive meat and dubious farming methods I would suggest that yes, Horse is a viable alternative. They are fed on grass or hay which leads to a much better nutritional profile than grain-fed animals (such as most commercial cattle). Horse is a very lean meat unlike others which are fattened before slaughter. They can partake in farm work prior during their lifetime which increases the cost-efficiency for farmers and of course eating the meat of a horse ensures that they are not wasted after death.

Take the Plunge!

For the more adventurous of you, I’ve included a recipe so you can try Horse yourself (don't break any laws importing it though!) Perhaps one day we will go through a cultural change in which we can embrace this new meat with relish and enjoy a more varied diet from now on.

Anyone simply looking for a quick recipe would do well to treat Horse as they do Beef and fry up a few steaks, Enjoy!

Cook Time

Prep time: 35 min
Cook time: 2 hours
Ready in: 2 hours 35 min
Yields: Serves 6-8, three days marinating time (optional)

Ingredients

  • 2lbs/1kg Horse Rump
  • 2 Sticks Celery
  • 2-3 Carrots
  • 1 Onion, Large
  • 4 Cloves
  • A Dozen Coriander Seeds
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 2oz/50g Lard
  • 1/4 cup/60ml olive oil
  • 1 Bottle Dry Red Wine
  • 1tbsp Butter, kneaded in flour
  • Flour
  • 2-3tbsp Paprika
  • Salt and Pepper

Instructions

  1. Lardoon the meat with the lard and slivers of carrots. Dice the other vegetables and put them with the meat and the spices except the paprika in a bowl; pour the wine over everything, cover and marinate in the refrigerator for three days, turning the meat occasionally.
  2. Pat the meat dry (reserve the vegetables and the marinade), flour it, and brown it in the oil, in a pot over a brisk flame. Add the vegetables, and when they've cooked for a few minutes, pour the marinade over the meat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about three hours. Once the meat is done, remove it to a platter and blend the sauce.
  3. Return the sauce to the fire, thicken it with the butter-flour ball, and season it to taste with paprika. Pour the sauce over the meat and serve, with polenta and the side dishes you prefer.
  4. The wine? Amarone or Valpolicella Superiore, or a Cabernet-Merlot blend along the lines of Valcalepio.

Comments

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    • EmpatheticAdvisor profile image

      Ruth Laughery 4 years ago from Montana

      Minikitten,

      If I looked at your profile correctly, you are in Europe where horse meat has been consumed. I am in the US where it has never been consumed on a commercial level.

      Here in the US, the public has a romantic fantasy about the cowboys of old and his horse and consider them historic icons.

      I also am engaged in agriculture in addition to my sideline in health care. I love my horses very much and some are even my pets too.

      But not all of them turn out to be pets. Some just have nasty dispositions that cannot be worked through or even if they do get friendly, they remain unpredictable and are not suitable for the average rider to control. In this instance they have to go somewhere as you can't euthanize all of them. So horse slaughter makes perfect sense and is a viable market option if it was again allowed in the US.

      So Minikitten, you bring up good points and the recipe looks interesting.

      To those of you that may read my comment in the US and not believe this is true or can be remedied in someway, I ask: How many horses have you been around?

      I myself have bred and raised probably over 100 horses in my breeding program since I was kid. I still have 27 on my place that I raised in addition to eight that I purchased as colts. Not all of them turned out or got injured to the point that I could not salvage any use from them and it would have been cruel to have let them hang around and suffer due to their crippling injuries

      .

      I have also ridden numerous horses for other people in the past, and have friends and family that own 2 or more. So I have probably been around at least 200 different horses, of all sizes, dispositions and training levels. Have you? Or have you just seen them on TV or at a rodeo, circus or petting zoo?

      I have in the past sent some to the "can" to be processed for meat. I always felt bad about it, much like I sometimes feel when we ship our calves in the fall, but this is the way things have to be as there is no place for them to all remain especially if they are suffering. It also is not financially feasible to spend money on feed for an animal that does not generate revenue either.

      Euthanize then you say.What are you thinking? Slaughter horses have salvage value and believe me as tight as money is in the US today, would you just go out and throw several hundred bucks on the ground and just walk away?

      I have had some horses that I have kept until they died because they had earned a peaceful ending from many years of faithful service. But this natural death is not always as peaceful as a person may think either.

      I also recently euthanized a gelding I had for 18 years. He had cancer of his sheath and believe me I fought as hard as I could to keep him alive. I had him have surgery to remove the lesions but stopped short of chemo. This bought him 6 more months of what I made sure was a peaceful and lazy summer because I knew the cancer was coming back.

      When the day came and I had to call the vet, it was very hard to do.

      But I also got a $300.00 bill out of it too.

      So you can't afford to euthanize all of them and they are livestock in the end, even though we may develop a bond with some of them.

      I personally don't think I could eat horse meat, but I wouldn't condemn those that would want to and would be willing to do my part to fill this niche with animals that are not suitable to serve as companions and partners to people.

      Everyone has their personal opinion on this issue. I will respect yours and you should respect mine.

    • minikitten profile image
      Author

      Kirsten 4 years ago from England

      Hi EmpatheticAdvisor,

      I'm sorry to hear about your gelding, euthanizing an animal is never an easy choice when you've developed a bond with them. I've never owned horses myself but had a few friends when I was younger who lived on farms, I did spend a fair amount of time with horses though I was never much of rider!

      I agree that Americans probably have a closer attachment to their horses than Europeans, though here in the UK we don't particularly think of horses in the same category as cows or pigs. I think they're more comparable to dogs; a loyal companion type of relationship, would that be how Americans see horses? Though like I hinted in one of the captions, pet lambs are also thought of as companions (or a cute pet at least).

      An interesting thing I did find while I was researching this hub was that in 2011 the US congress lifted a ban on horse slaughter plants. I don't think any exist at the moment, but you never know what could happen in future.

      Anyhow you bring up some fascinating points and I'd like to thank you for being the first to comment on this hub, it's much appreciated!

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