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Feb 25, 2013 09:57 AM

Horse meat?

With all the news lately, I'm wondering, is it legal for sale here, and if so, where would one procure such a fine French delicacy?

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  1. Both importing it into the USA and producing it in the USA are legal.

    Check with Savenors -- I am sure you will not be the first person to ask them this recently.

    1. It used to be illegal to sell or eat horse meat in the US, however, on November 18, 2011, the ban on the slaughter of horses for meat was lifted as part of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2012. States and districts, can still impose horse meat restrictions.
      Eating horse meat, though, is so taboo, you will have a hard time finding it. I don't know if it's legal to purchase and consume here in Boston, but I would think if anyplace would have it, it would Savenor's on Charles Street. They would definitely know the skinny on it.

      As a side note: Many US Race horses are actually butchered here domestically and shipped to Europe for consumption. We are major supplier of the market.

      10 Replies
      1. re: UnclePH

        it's not just the french who eat it and i am unsure how it is a french delicacy when it would be an american horse. :)

        1. re: hotoynoodle

          Italy is the largest consumer of horse meat in Europe and specialized butcher shops (called Macellerie Equine) sell it. It is very rich in iron and low in cholesterol and doctors used (and maybe still do) to recommend it for people with iron deficiency.

          1. re: Pappabuona

            Lots of dismay in my town this past year, when the last chevaline (horse butcher) went out of business.

            Still two more left at the marché, though.

        2. re: UnclePH

          As far as I can learn, the federal ban was only for about 5 years, from 2006 to 2011. Even then, the ban was not on the sale or consumption of horse meat, but actually banned the inspection of slaughterhouses that processed horse meat.

          I can remember horse meat being available in butcher shops and supermarkets in the Boston area, ostensibly for pet food, in the 1960s and 1970s. I know that I saw ground horse meat for sale at Waltham Supermarket in the early 1970s (what is now the Hannaford's on Main Street.)

          As a side note: US race horses were actually shipped to Canada or Mexico for slaughter for the European trade, not slaughtered here in the US. However, the heavy use of many types of medications on US racehorses appears to be raising concerns in Europe about the safety of US horse meat as food:

          1. re: Allstonian

            i also just read that horse-fried steak was served at the harvard club til the mid-80s.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              I'm guessing this was actually "fried horse steak", or perhaps "chicken-fried horse".

              Have definitely seen horse on Canadian menus, and tried it in France myself. There's room for outrage at any kind of deceptive labeling, but the broader taboo among Americans strikes me as odd.


              1. re: MC Slim JB

                Same here. I can definitely understand concern about deceptive labeling, not least because of the risk of tainted horse meat, but it seems as though the taboo aspect has gotten much stronger in the US in the past 40 years. When I was a kid the main "eww" factor was based on the idea that horse meat was pet food.

                1. re: Allstonian

                  Watching Mad Men, I also got the impression that eating horse meat once had connotations of extreme poverty, something eaten only out of desperation during the Depression.


                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    Yep - kind of a predecessor to the idea of folks (especially the elderly) so poor they're reduced to eating canned pet food.

            2. re: Allstonian

              That makes more sense. My understanding is that you can find horse meat in Canada for human consumption.

          2. thanks!

            I figured Savenors would be the place to check, and to be honest was surprised to find no posts here on this topic yet.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Nechushtan

              Savenor's does have a wide variety of other delicacies, including Kangaroo, yak and elk meat.

            2. Harvard University's Faculty Club had horse meat on the menu for over 100 years, until 1985.

              2 Replies
                1. re: Tonality666

                  I used to eat the horse steak at the Faculty Club every chance I got -- it was quite tasty! The story was that it had become a fixture on the menu during the last war, when it was the only meat available (rationing, you know) -- and that a substantial number of faculty had become attached to it, so it stayed on the menu. It did disappear during the '80s, about the same time I stopped eating at the Harvard Faculty Club.

                2. Fine French delicacy? Horses might beg to differ.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: hiddenboston

                    Never had it. Is the attraction a unique flavor because usually athletic animals are not overly tender?

                    1. re: Tom34

                      Well, athleticism is a bit tricky. Rabbits can run fast, and oxen are strong draft animals. That doesn't necessarily make them tough and stringy overall. Most animals have some muscles that are more fibrous than others: see beef skirt and flank, for instance. You just have to match preparation method to cut. I expect there is a horsey version of tenderloin.


                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        Yeah, cut / location definitely matters. I just find a well marbled high grade steak from the rib or loin so consistently satisfyingly delicious in every way and so widely available that I gave up on what were once called exotics such as Bison a long time age. My experimentation these days usually involves seafood. The horse meat thing made me curious though as I have never had it and it was pretty much the butt of a standard fast food hamburger meat joke growing up.

                      2. re: Tom34

                        Horsemeat has a decidedly sweet flavor too it -- and it's a much darker red than beef (it smells different, too). I don't care for it, but people who like it say that it is very tender (the association of horse butchery says that it's because the meat is aged - curious, since they don't age beef in France!)

                        And no, it's not a delicacy -- it's found in marchés and supermarkets across the country - not hard to find at all, but also not commonly found in restaurants.

                        Pretty ordinary, really -- my clients in the 45-50 bracket say they were served horsemeat every Thursday in school.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          It's served in quite a few restaurants in Montreal.

                          I've had it a few times (fillet wrapped in bacon) and haven't notice a sweet flavor at all. I thought it tasted pretty much like a regular beef.

                          Definately more tender than beef.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Aged on a hook or just an old animal? Are they retired animals, captured wild, raised for food or a combination of all three? Just curious because to be ordinary implies there are millions of them like cattle and its just hard to picture horses in a similar livestock way.

                            1. re: Tom34

                              In most places in the world (if not all) it is extremely illegal to kill wild/feral horses.

                              1. re: FinnFPM

                                I have a little experience riding horses but totally ignorant on the subject of eating them. Just wondering where all the horse meat comes from given the apparent popularity of it.

                              2. re: Tom34

                                aged on the hook is what they mean, although animals in Europe are typically much, much older than their US counterparts (beef is usually not slaughtered until they're 5-7 years old)

                                Horses are microchipped by law, and encoded into the microchip is the owner's choice whether the animal can be sold into the food chain or not.

                                According to the French horsemeat industry website ( about 15,000 horses are butchered for the table -- there are NO wild horses in France, so the rest are either specifically raised for food or retired/unused animals.

                                and it's definitely waning in popularity.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  I guess if you have an old horse that needs to be put down turning it over to a slaughterhouse is the most economical way to handle it.

                                  (5 - 7 year old cattle) This age group would not even be graded in the US. The meat must be maroon in color and one would think a little chewy.

                                  1. re: Tom34

                                    Chewy, yes, maroon, no. It's the same color as steak anywhere else. It's also not hung to age like US beef -- which, to me, explains more of the chewy than the age of the animal.

                                    When you go to buy beef in smaller supermarkets, you find a certificate displayed in the shop that tells you about the animal - where it was born, where it was raised, how much it weighted when butchered, and sometimes even a photo of the animal.

                                    It's also incredibly tasty, as much of it is grass-fed and is mostly free-range (the idea of feedlot is completely alien here).

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      Here the raw meat tends to get darker as the animal gets older. Very little US meat is hung anymore. 90% is shipped "boxed beef" (Cryovaced sub primals) and it can hit the table within a week or so of slaughter.

                                      Some branded products in the top choice & prime grades are "wet" aged in the bag for several weeks. IMHO, much better stuff due to both the higher grade and additional aging. Some high end restaurants & butchers also remove the sub primals from the bag and dry age them which can double the cost.

                                      Grass finished beef is mostly a niche market here. When everything is done perfectly, usually by small ranchers, its an outstanding product but very expensive.

                                      1. re: Tom34

                                        I'm American, by the way -- grew up with the US system.

                                        The biggest difference is that the cuts are hugely different from US butchering -- took me a while to get used to it.