For some, horse meat ain't all bad

 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Although most Americans would never think of chowing down on a horse, their distaste is not shared by the French, the Belgians, or many other continental Europeans. Not to mention the Japanese. The reasons for such varying tastes were analyzed by Marvin Harris in his 1985 book, Good to Eat. The following information is from Harris' book.

As a pile of fossilized horse bones three feet deep and several acres across in eastern France attests, Paleolithic people relished fresh horse steaks. Once the animals were domesticated, however, they could not be used primarily for eating - unlike cattle, sheep and pigs. Horses are not efficient enough at converting grass into meat to be raised for that purpose.

Horses transformed human society, creating wealthy elites and carrying predatory hordes that changed the map of Eurasia. They were too valuable as engines of war to be treated like other livestock; but since horsemeat is redder and sweeter than beef, and stays tender right into the animal's old age, many ate it when they could get it.

During the reign of Louis XIV, when France was importing 20,000-30,000 horses a year to keep its armies in the field, royal edicts forbade the eating of horsemeat. In a society starved for protein, this ban, among others, helped lead to the Revolution. During the Reign of Terror, as the aristocrats' heads were falling into baskets, their horses were going into the cooking pots of Parisian housewives.

The British, on the other hand, could eschew the eating of horses because they imported so much meat from their far-flung empire, an empire maintained, at least in part, by a superb cavalry.

Americans seem to have inherited the British distaste for horse flesh, although they didn't mind feeding it to their pets earlier in this century. Oddly, few complain about the thousands of domestic horses, many of them from racetracks, that end up in slaughterhouses. Last year this nation of horse lovers produced nearly 113 million pounds of horsemeat - most of it for export.

High Country News Classifieds
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • NATURE EDUCATION DIRECTOR
    Our mission is to inspire a life-long connection to nature and community through creative exploration of the outdoors. We are seeking an educational leader who...
  • DEVELOPMENT AND MARKETING DIRECTOR
    The Development and Marketing Director is a senior position responsible for the execution of all development and marketing strategies to raise funds and increase public...
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Coordinates all Wyoming Wildlife Federation philanthropic activities. Tasks include identification, recruitment, and retention of donors, organizing fundraising events, and assisting with grant writing.
  • REALTOR NEEDS A REMOTE ASSISTANT
    This is a business assistant position, The working hours are flexible and you can chose to work from anywhere of your choice, the pay is...
  • CORPORATE & GRANTS PARTNER MANAGER
    Forever Our Rivers Foundation Corporate Partnerships Manager February 2020 www.ForeverOurRivers.org Forever Our Rivers Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was formed in late 2016 with the mission...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Central Oregon LandWatch is seeking an Executive Director to advance our mission and oversee the development of the organization. Job Description: The Executive Director oversees...
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • MEDIA DIRECTOR
    Love working with the media? Shine a spotlight on passionate, bold activists fighting for wild lands, endangered species, wild rivers and protecting the climate.
  • STAFF ATTORNEY - NEVADA
    The Center for Biological Diversity is seeking an attorney to expand our litigation portfolio in Nevada. Come join our hard-hitting team as we fight for...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Montana Wildlife Federation seeks an energetic leader to advance our mission, sustain our operations, and grow our grassroots power. For a full position description,...
  • HISTORIC COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITY IN DOWNTOWN NOGALES
    Nogales. 3 active lower spaces and upper floor with lots of potential. 520-245-9000 [email protected]
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • DIRECTOR, TEXAS WATER PROGRAMS
    The National Wildlife Federation seeks a Director to lead our water-related policy and program work in Texas, with a primary focus on NWF's signature Texas...
  • SPLIT CREEK RANCH
    Spectacular country home on 48 acres with Wallowa River running through it! 541-398-1148 www.RubyPeakRealty.com
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...
  • NEW MEXICO GILA NATIONAL FOREST HORSE RANCH
    43 acres in the Gila National Forest. Horse facility, custom home. Year-round outdoor living. REDUCED to $999,000, 575-536-3109.
  • EVERLAND MOUNTAIN RETREAT
    Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • COPPER CANYON MEXICO CAMPING & BACKPACKING
    Camping, hiking, backpacking, R2R2R, Tarahumara Easter, Mushroom Festival, www.coppercanyontrails.org.