In many parts of our world horse meat is regularly sold and consumed, yet for Americans, Irish, the Brits and a few other pockets the very thought of it ellicits a gag reflex and, in quite a few cases – anger, but how can you tell if you’re eating horse meat or not?

To my knowledge, I’ve never eaten horse meat but with that said, I have been to France many times. Having ordered “beef” and eaten kebobs the likelihood that I have unknowingly tried it is high. However, unlike many Americans, the thought of horse meat consumption does not make me shudder to my very core. I quite obviously LOVE horses. I’ve dedicated the last 7 years of my life to helping promote the positive aspects of the horse industry. So, am I not really human, not really American or simply inhumane? No to all three. This is likely because my father was, and please don’t stereotype me here cause I’m not at all what you’re about to think… My father was a gun toting, NRA card carrying large game hunter slash taxidermist by trade. He had me hand loading my own ammo at age 8 and I single-shot my first deer, to please daddy of course, at 10. Therefore carcasses and guts of cute furry animals, large game, birds, aquatic life and unusual reptiles alike are common place with me. But I digress. Coming back to the anthropomorphization of it, I wouldn’t eat Bambi either. So how do I know what horse meat tastes like?..

The Taste
I have spoke with people who have or do eat it. They say it is leaner than beef and relatively tender and it has a pronounced sweet taste to it. It is said people often mistake it for a blend of beef and venison. Meat from younger horses is said to be lighter in color and flavor while the meat from older horses extremely sweet, incredibly tender, and deep in color (oddly the opposite with beef and the procurement of veal). The nitty gritty of it’s nutritional value – it’s low fat, low cholesterol and high in iron. Yet I don’t have a hard and fast answer for how to tell. If you’re completely freaked at the thought of an accidental hap then it might be best to go vegetarian, at least for a while.

The Scandal
Yes, it’s a scandal on a massive scale. If you’ve listened to the news anytime in the last week, you’ve heard the ever expanding fallout from horse meat, and we’re talking 100% in some cases, being pawned off as beef in burgers, ready meals, and kebobs. At first site the proverbial finger was pointed at France. Ah, oui oui, da Fraaann-CH. Well it’s not just Pepé Le Pew and his lot. It’s reached into Ireland and even back into the discoverers own back yard of West Wales in Aberystwyth. I can only fathom the outlandish remarks Granny would have over tea in the Drawing Room at Downton! “Oh good, let’s talk about horse slaughter.” The powers that be have repeatedly assured the public there’s no need to worry but I’d personally prefer NOT to sit down to a warm meal of Phenylbutazone which is an additional disconcerting side to the matter.

The Resolution
Those of us horse lovers like to think of their hearts pounding to win the Kentucky Derby or carrying Jim Craig down the side of an impossible mountain. That love, that bond, that connection only true horse lovers who’ve genuinely connected with at least one horse in their life can feel just won’t most go to that other place. I certainly wouldn’t intentionally sidle up to a plate of Black Beauty. But the answers are unclear. Over-regulation increases prices and trying to come out of a double dipper that’s not ideal still functional regulation is needed. Comparing to our regulators stateside, the USDA is deemed to provide high standards of beef plants yet many fast food restaurant burgers can be tested with an alarmingly high percentage of feces (SEE Food, Inc. for more info). It makes this fleeting lass wonder how they can legally label it 100% beef if that be the case and there’s one thing western societies tend to get a wad in their panties about – being lied to. So stateside its feces and across the pond it’s horse, the “beef” manufacturing plants have obviously been lying. Regulation yes but heads need to roll and not horse heads but the heads of the people making decisions about selling a lie to consumers. Okey and because I have been a bit more out there than usual, I’ll qualify that last sentence by saying the decision makers of those found guilty simply need to be sacked.

How do you feel about this whole fiasco? Do you think it’s acceptable to eat horse? If so, why?


  • I am a horse lover since very very young (and own a few and riding them)…

    As a child, my mom was cooking “bourguignonne fondue” and roastbeef and, very often, it was horse meat.

    To me, it tasts very good!

    If I decided to eat meat and not being a vegetarian, I have to pull out my head of the ground and think that, whatever the meat is, fist it was a living animal.

    Sure I don’t pet the cow I am going to eat or I am not riding it. I won’t either eat my own horse.

    I think the “yark feelings” come from the fact that we have interactions with the horses (not from the tast of it). The same way we will not eat our dogs in our american society (But we all know some do!)

    To me… horse meat is tasty and a healthy choice.

    I am a carnivore… so poor chicken, poor pig, poor cow, poor deer…and poor horses… Once on my dishes you tast good…

  • I’m so on the fence about this so please hear me out.
    IF we were to raise horses as human food like cattle, treated humanely, NOT pumped with drugs that are bad for us, and slaughtered in a more humane way than what they do now ( I know there is no humane slaughter. After years and years you would think there would be an evolution in the way we slaughter but no) I don’t know if I would have such a hard time eating horse. Its suppose to be leaner than beef, sweeter tasting, and contains more iron.
    But for me my horse is my companion, she is my best friend, and spiritual guide. I hate seeing us mass produce animals and spend so much money to train them just to let them starve or go to waste. I am NOT pro slaughter by any means. In fact I’ve worked with a horse rescue for the past 5 years trying to save horses from slaughter, neglect, and starvation. I’ve tried several times to go vegetarian and I’ve failed several times… I also come from a town that hunts a lot so I’m use to deer and all other kinds of game. To me meat is meat. After life has left the body its just bones, tissue, and organs. The animal already sacrificed its life and we should honor it and not let it go to waste. My personal opinion… Would I buy horsemeat, no. Would I eat it if someone prepared it just for me, perhaps. I am still trying to get a group of friends to be primitive survivalists. I’d probably be a vegetarian then and be a heck of a lot more healthy! lol

    • Thanks Sara. That is an interesting take. Do you think there’s a way the USDA could regulate any or all slaughtering process to be more positive? –Angelea

  • I raise beef cattle and am from a very rural area of the U.S. We also raise horses for work and pleasure. I understand the attitude that I LOVE my horse and would never eat him, I think anyone that has had a horse feels somewhat that way. But the US has in the past eaten horse as well as other livestock. It was only after WWII that the gov. encouraged the US to eat beef that we stopped eating horse here in this country. I think the greatest thing about our country is the freedom to choice! I may not choose to eat pigs but I do not think I have the right to tell someone else they can’t.

    As long as it is labeled correctly and processed in the US where it is under our laws and regulations, I say to each his own.

      • Horse meat kept the troops from starving in World War II, and fed most of the people
        at home because it was readily available, government inspected, and not rationed like every other forms of meat. The reason the push for beef after WWII, the cattle ranches were depleted because of price and disease and they were trying to help the recovery.(I think)
        Horse meat is 50% higher in protein, 40% lower in fat, high in iron, and has up to 18 times the Omega-3 fatty acids of beef. China is the largest consumer, followed closely by Mexico, then other countries in Europe, Asia, Middle East, Russia, and the Americas. There are more meals served every day worldwide then there are McDonald’s hamburgers.

    • I think WWII, ad well as WWI, are excellent historic markers. I am reminded of how the German Haflinger was a leggier, lighter boned riding horse until the need to put the breed into war, and ‘beefier’ animals, when no longer able to pull cannons, etc., offered more meat for the soldiers. The Haffie of today is the result of developing that riding/eating phenotype.

  • US vs Euro eq management are like apples and oranges. European breeding, overseen by the state, manages the # of foals produced and culls the less than ideal while they are young and before bute, etc. enters their systems as working adults. I’ve seen US horsemen react w/ almost as much resistance to breeding management as to gun control. The “no one’s going to tell ME what I can do with my mare/stallion” attitude is still selfishly pervasive, and annual foal crops ultimately pay the price, but not until wormers, shots, bute, and more are already fermenting through the flesh of those whose mediocrity, owners’ economic downturn, or old age only then send them to their doom. It should come as no surprise this news has broken — the tsunami of unwanted horses going to slaughter has been nonstop since 2008 at least, which is why Ireland, and prob more countries, fudged records so supply could match demand. By giving Europe a heads up that testing will begin Mar 1, critics are already saying that will give processors time to hide any remaining horse meat and ‘pass’ inspection. I think it’s only a matter of time until we find it here. Meanwhile, as for making slaughter more humane, the horse industry is curiously silent in supporting Tempel Grandin’s reasonable approach to minimizing stress at processing plants and Grandin too is curiously silent on this issue (mayhaps US Beef is keeping a lid on getting involved?) We will never curtail horse slaughter thru the ‘noble creature/partner in history’ argument; we have to drive home how unhealthy it is for people — especially for Japan which likes its horse, and smaller cut pony meat, prepared raw — to eat chemical-soaked flesh, and appeal to that lowest common denominator among our species of ‘how will it affect ME?’ Secondly, we have to have a 5-year moratorium on breeding, across the board, all breeds, all disciplines. Just STOP. STOP putting tens of thousands of foals on the ground each spring to play the odds that you have that one, big moneymaker or Futurity winner. Stop peddling living flesh as revenue. Establish expensive, paperwork-laden approval processes to obtain one-season only breeding licenses (for stud and mare owners). Ever year you want to make foals you have to reapply and re-pay, and use those licensing fees to underwrite the overcrowded rescues that will be our responsibility for at least the next 10-20 yrs until the current overpopulation of horses ages out or are repurposed/retrained. America jumps on this ‘Made in the USA’ bandwagon yet its horse people do not compete at FEI or otherwise with American horses (mustangs, anyone?) but instead take their US dollars overseas and ‘import’ horses. I challenge today’s trainers to really demonstrate their horsemanship not by cramming a round two-year-old peg into a square Futurity hole but by taking a soured horse, rehabbing an injured one, or taking an American breed already here and needing a home and job, and making THAT your next ‘champion.’

    • Wow LA! There’s so much in there, I’m not sure where to start but I thank you very much for your comments! A very smart comparison with breeding control vs gun control. Well said! It sounds like you have some very strong and well thought out opinions on horse breeding in the USA and I imagine the fans would love to hear more. Would you be interested in submitting an article we can publish on this? –Angelea

      • Hi Angela and thnx for your kind offer. In keeping with the breeding control vs gun control comparison, I have found the only thing stronger than my opinion have been the personal attacks I have received for it from knee-jerk reactionaries who want neither their # of bullets nor breedings limited by anyone. I have been attacked by breeders (I won’t specify which breed) that have personally contacted editors or publishers I have worked with and demanded that my services be dropped immediately b/c of my views. Thankfully, today’s equine editorial world has risen above the McCarthyism of the 1950s, but our horse breeding industry hasn’t necessarily evolved beyond wanting to silence those who speak freely. And since I’ve no overwhelming desire to tape a bull’s eye on my back, do not currently own a horse (so I don’t personally have a ‘dog in this fight’), and take great joy in the robust calendar of writing assignments I do juggle that celebrate, promote, and inform readers about the horse world, it’s not worth it to me to take you up on your invitation and risk further — and I’ll confess, SCARY — threats for my stance. Ironically, that in itself lends another layer to this issue’s complex onion because, as the old adage goes, if I’m pissing people off I must be doing something right 🙂

    • Not all horses in the US are so full of bute? We have several horses on the ranch that have never had bute, in fact the only horses we own that have ever had bute are horses that have been in the show pen and very rarely at that. If every horse in America was full of bute their owners are being irresponsible and over medicating them to make themselves feel better about themselves. The only reason that bute has been banned from the processing of horses is because the testing hasn’t been required from the drug companies. You would have to eat hundreds of pounds of bute tainted meat to effect you. Bute can be used in cows under the age of 20 months of age, because after 20 months they can be milked.

      • I posted a link on Facebook yesterday that stated, once bute enters the system, it NEVER leaves. I find it remarkable — and suspect this is ‘damage control’ wielding its power — that the focus is on just one drug. And drug co’s will never require testing – that’s asking the fox to mind the henhouse!

        • Here is an article that explains the bute issue much better than I can.

          What science says about phenylbutazone (bute) not
          existing in horses used as food animals
          …phenylbutazone is in a class of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) commonly used in
          sport and performance horses. Anti-slaughter groups are raising the existence of this drug in some
          horses as a reason why all horses should not be used as food animals. However, bute is one of
          many drugs that are quickly eliminated from a horse’s system, and for which there are ample
          controls in place that prevent a horse with any detectable drug residue in their systems from
          entering the food chain, as well as scientifically valid lab tests that are accurate down to parts per
          trillion that regulators use to monitor the food system.
          Equine Drugs, Medications, and Performance Altering Substances: Their Performance Effects,
          Detection, and Regulation, a report delivered by Dr. Thomas Tobin, Dr. Julio Gutierrez, Emily
          Schwartz, Dr. Fernanda Camargo, and Charlie Hughes Equine Pharmacology, Therapeutics and
          Toxicology Laboratory, The Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center, University of Kentucky; Dr.
          Rodney Eisenberg, Frontier Biopharm; Dr. Andreas Lehner, Diagnostic Center for Population and
          Animal Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University; Dr. Kent Stirling, Florida
          Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. From the discussion on medication dosing and
          “The horse will eliminate the bulk of this dose of phenylbutazone quite rapidly. If
          phenylbutazone in the horse has a 7.22 hour half-life, 50% of the drug will be
          eliminated by 7.22 hours after dosing, 75% by 14.44 hours post dosing, 87.5 by
          about 21 hours post dosing, and 90% by 24 hours after dosing. At the end of day 1,
          when 90% of the drug is eliminated, the pharmacological effect of the drug is, for
          all practical purposes, gone, but there is still present in the horse the not
          inconsiderable number of 6 followed by 20 zeros worth of phenylbutazone
          molecules. Every day another 90% of the drug in the body of the horse will be
          eliminated, and other zero drops off. However, if the chemist really wants to look,
          with current technology he or she can easily find traces of the phenylbutazone or
          its metabolites for 14 days or more after administration, a time postadministration that even the most conservative chemists and regulators generally
          do not wish to pursue a medication identification.”
          Technical Report of the European Food Safety Authority – Report for 2009 on the results from the
          monitoring of veterinary medicinal product residues and other substances in live animals and animal
          “There were 0.26 % non-compliant samples for substances in the category “other
          veterinary drugs” (B2). A relatively high proportion of non-compliant samples was
          found for anticoccidials (B2b): 2.05% in poultry, 1.19% in eggs, 4.44% in rabbits, and 0.54% in farmed game. Noncompliances for anthelmintics (B2a) were reported
          in bovines (0.14 %), pigs (0.1 %), sheep and goats (0.28 %), aquaculture (0.39 %),
          and milk (0.3 %). For carbamates and pyrethroids (B2c), there was only one noncompliant sample in pigs, and one in wild game. No non-compliant sample was
          reported for sedatives (B2d). For non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (B2e) there
          were non-compliant samples in bovines (0.13 %), sheep and goats (0.2 %), horses
          (0.6 %), poultry (0.46 %), milk (0.03 %), and rabbits (1.39 %). Non-compliant
          samples for “other pharmacologically active substances” (B2f)were reported in
          bovines (0.37 %), poultry (0.2 %), and pigs (0.09 %).
          Precautions in place to ensure that horses with detectable levels of any
          drug residue are not allowed in the food system:
          1. EU requirements for either complete veterinary records signed off by a licensed veterinarian
          who is liable for losing their license if they falsify records; or
          2. Horse must be held in a controlled environment for a minimum of 180 days;
          3. If a government inspector acquires a single positive sample of any substance in the carcasses
          being inspected, the entire lot of meat in the plant at the time is condemned;
          4. Because of the economic penalties in place, most processors are moving towards testing
          every horse prior to processing to ensure compliance. Lab tests are available which test for a
          full spectrum of substances that are accurate to the parts per trillion level.
          To put this amount of accuracy into understandable terms, it is noted in the Tobin et al report that:
          An ELISA test will usually detect about 5 ng/ml (or 5 parts per billion) or less of
          drug or drug metabolite in the sample. Some tests are 10 fold more sensitive,
          detecting down to the high parts per trillion. To put these figures in perspective,
          one part per billion is one second in your life if you are 32 years old.

  • So, horse meat has become an issue. I personally cannot live without my horses in my life. But what are we supposed to do about how animals were made? We eat thousands of different animals every year, and yet you still have eggs on your plate and milk in your cup. We are going to eat meat wether you like it or not, but that doesn’t mean we’ll blow this issue out of the water completely. Some animals just can’t even try not to eat other animals. Personally, I love animals. I thank that animal for giving its life, just because I choose to. But I’m not saying I’ll ever enjoy eating horse meat. And you can all the fruits and veggies you want- but it’s not going to change me.

  • I meant to say created with the ability to be eaten. We eat certain animals because they were made in a way we could eat as well.

  • I am so shocked and disgusted with the majority of the comments here. For a website that is supposed to be so “horse oriented” you seem to be supportive of the comments made that these people, for the most part, have no problem eating horses. Wow, you are horse people? Does that mean when you don’t feel the need for your dog, who is treated with medications of all types, as are most horses, by people who care about them, would you sell your dog to be slaughtered for food for others, or yourself, to eat, just because it “tastes good” and you “choose” to do so? Come on people, choice has it’s limits. And this is definitely one of them. !!!! I definitely will not have anything to do with your business, nor will any of my “Horse Friends” who know what loving a horse entails!!!

    • Thanks for your comments Linda. I am supportive of freedom of speech. I am supportive of constructive, non-flaming, criticism and after reading the article, I’m hope it’s understood not supportive of knowingly consuming horse meat.

      Also if one watches any of the series the last 7 years, they’d know we only publish the positive aspects of the horse industry so personally writing a piece about the horse meat scandal was close to that line. This is why I chose to go the path of giving people a few pointers as to how they can tell and offer the thought of going vegetarian.

      I do sincerely thank you again for your comments. The open, hopefully constructive, forum of communications is what our service members fight to maintain for us and I’m thankful every day that both you, I & the others that commented have the ability to speak freely about our opinions without feeling fear of repercussions. I hope you do find a horse original web series or blog that you enjoy tremendously. I’m sorry you don’t feel HorseGirlTV® is that but thanks for sharing your remarks before leaving.

      All the best and if you decide to come back, we’ll be here for you to Tune in. Tack up.®. 🙂 –Angelea

    • I’m sorry, but I think your taking this a bit out of proportion. I love my dog, and for my comment I intended to say I am against horse consumption. But animal consumption entirely is a different story. I enjoy chicken, steak, bacon, but I have never eaten horse meat, and I do not intend to. Put your feet in somebody else’s shoes before you go into that area of the discussion. In my perspective, there are several cases in this discussion:

      people against horse consumption

      pro horse meat consumption

      those are the main cases. Here are the ones getting deeper into the discussion:

      my case {those who are against horse consumption, but not animal consumption entirely}

      those who do not eat any sort of animal

      those who consume any/all animals

      so clearly, we have a little bit more to discuss here.

      • I appreciate your remarks. I did want to offer some people that were freaked out about it an option and a few tidbits of how to tell. Thanks for breaking it down even more and thanks for sharing! –Angelea 🙂

  • Congratulations Angelea and welcome to that most coveted of journalistic clubs, the Personal Attacks Society! When you start to have to defend freedom of speech and the value of public discourse you’re doing something right. The horse world is not all unicorns and rainbows and no one, especially a public media entity, should be told to only paint pretty pictures and to silence discourse from a different viewpoint.
    Stick to your saddle and may HorseGirlTV be rewarded for its lively dialogue on a complicated issue with a big boost on its search engines.

    • Thanks LA. I’ve actually been a member since 1998 having worked with one of the first online communities + I started blogging in ’97, WAY before the coin was termed.

      Over the last 7 years of HorseGirlTV® I’ve been flamed about all sorts of things from my hair color to who I’ve trained with to promoting the positive aspects of a particular discipline. I find it most rewarding to allow the voices to be heard, even if it’s a flame, and respond with the glass half full version in hopes to turn things around.

      Ironically this was the first quote I read this morning, “It’s the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” -Aristotle

      • And when it comes to throwing chum into the intellectual water, to quote the inimitable Roy Schneider, sometimes you’re “Gonna need a bigger boat.”

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