Are you now or have you ever been a consumer of horse meat? Well, the truth is, you don’t know.
Horse Meat-gate broke wide open two weeks ago with reports that horse DNA had been found in Ikea meatballs sold in the Czech Republic and in various meat-related foods like lasagna and burgers in other European countries. Ikea took prompt action, recalling some 1.67 billion pounds of meatballs in 14 European countries. The company says there is no problem here in the U.S.
Evidence emerged that the Euro-horse meat may have come from a few Polish processing plants where horse DNA was found in the meat.
The scandal highlights our cultural squeamishness with horse meat. OK, let me not generalize. I speak for myself when I say that I cannot abide the thought of eating Black Beauty, Trigger, Silver, Champion, Mr. Ed or Secretariat (now that would be a pricey burger!). Once we give the animal a name, it’s difficult to serve it up on a bun.
Still, people eat deer despite the Rudolph factor, and many enjoy rabbit, although Bugs and the Easter Bunny figure favorably and prominently in childhood lore. When my mother was a child, her parents kept a live carp swimming in the bathtub before Passover. The carp, which immediately assumed the status of family pet, eventually became the main ingredient in gefilte fish, a fate that still makes my mother shudder.
We would never consider eating our house pets, our dogs and cats. The more we anthropomorphize our critters — give them names, feed them “human food,” sleep with them, dress them up — the more difficult it is to turn them into hamburger. Americans eat some strange things, snake and alligator and possum included, but horse meat is not widely popular. It is also officially unavailable.
Horses have not been slaughtered for food in the U.S. since 2005, when Congress refused to allocate funds for inspection of horse slaughterhouses. We do, however, export some 150,000 horses a year to Canada and Mexico, where they are killed and used for food.