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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 (http://www.viande-chevaline.fr/) 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.

                          1. re: trufflehound

                            not just for braciola. It can also prepared raw as in "carpaccio" or steak Tartare

                            1. re: trufflehound

                              Is that because its better? Cheaper? Customary?

                            2. As noted in another post, horse meat was not rationed in the US during World War 2. My mother really liked it. For me it is just another flavor of protein. One I happen to like.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                What other kind of meat would you compare the flavor to?

                                1. re: Tom34

                                  I can't say it tastes like anything else I'm familiar with -- and I've tried a pretty long list of four-legged animals.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    It sounds like one of those things to try if I stumble upon it but not an item worth going to great lengths to find.

                              2. In the late 90s the Russian grocery store on Comm Ave (next to Store 24) used to advertise horse meat for sale on their window display.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Unfoodie

                                  how did i miss that? was the sign in cyrillic?

                                2. When I visited a friend in Japan we went to dinner at a restaurant call Asadachi It was featured on the pilot episode of Bizarre Foods. As you can guess, it serves some interesting items. As we were walking down the dark alley I turned to my friend and said: "I will try almost anything but I am not eating horse!"

                                  So we get there and everyone is shocked that a couple of Gaijin just strolled through the door. We sit down at the bar along side a Yakuza, a porn movie producer, a completely smashed senior citizen and a Kendo master. My friend is fluent and started speaking to the chef in Japanese (this sent the place into a near frenzy)

                                  The special that night? Of course, raw horse 5 ways and I scream out: ORDER TWO!

                                  Turns out, horse is awesome

                                  1. "...where would one procure such a fine French delicacy?"

                                    There's a large city to our south that's famous for its Filly Cheese Steak.

                                    1. Lots of restaurants in Iceland serve it.

                                      1. Who knew this would be such a fascinating subject? I had to chuckle to myself when I looked at my email inbox and noticed the 30 or so emails with the subject line "horse meat".

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: UnclePH

                                          Yeah, I thought it was interesting as well. Rode them but never considered eating one. Thought it was an old McDonalds hamburger meat joke.

                                          1. re: Tom34

                                            I remember years ago when Jack in the Box got busted for serving Kangaroo meat in their burgers. I noticed the other day that you can buy Kangaroo steaks at Savenors.

                                            1. re: UnclePH

                                              That's an urban legend. Jack In The Box never got "busted" for such a thing, except in the kangaroo court of public opinion.

                                              Pun intended.

                                              1. re: FinnFPM

                                                I would have to side with the "Urban Legend" from the economic standpoint that its hard to believe there is a more plentiful / cheaper source of ground meat than old dairy cows.

                                                1. re: FinnFPM

                                                  Actually, there is SOME truth to the urban legend. Though, you are correct... they were never "busted" for anything. (and your pun was appreciated.)

                                                  The meat never made it to market. It was mislabled meat from a processing plant in Australia that contained both kangaroo meat and horse meat.


                                                  Thank you for calling me on it. I have believed that story for years. Since 1981 to be exact.

                                          2. I just called Savenor's in Cambridge. The butcher in the games meat section told me that the USDA has not approved horse meat for domestic sale. However, they do have a special on camel meat this week, as well as offering elk, venison, and wild boar,

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: apolloclark


                                              your person was incorrect. whether the meat is available is something else.

                                              1. re: apolloclark

                                                Great link hotoynoodle.

                                                "Animal rights groups also argue that slaughtering is a messy, cruel process, and some say it would be kinder for owners to have their horses put to sleep by a veterinarian."

                                                I'm half-Native American, from the Cree tribe, and grew up in Maine until I was 12. I've never gone hunting, but I've fished, ice-fished, gone lobstering, hiked, biked, rock-climbed etc. Vegetarianism is great and genuinely is healthier diet given the industrialized worlds obscenely sedentary lifestyle. However, the human digestive system evolved over millions of years to consume meat, and only within the past ~12,000 years have we been consuming grains on any large-scale level.

                                                Point is: consuming meat of any animal should not be a crime or discouraged, it's more natural than anything else we do as humans. Granted, we shouldn't go out of our way to kill an endangered animal, but if it dies of natural causes I would love to give it a try. Lobster was once given only to prisoner, now it's a delicacy. Any given animal is eaten, or was eaten, in some area of the world, and many times as a delicacy.

                                                1. re: apolloclark

                                                  I would think the cost of having a veterinarian make a house call to put down a horse is quite costly. I would also think transportation to a crematory is not cheap & the actual cremation of such a large animal is also very expensive. Do the animal rights groups offer to pay these expenses?

                                                  I agree with you Apolloclark. A horse is a large animal and can feed quite a few people. If there is an efficient safe way to bring the horse into the food stream and the owner wishes to do so it is a benefit to society.

                                                  1. re: Tom34

                                                    We used to have horses, and when a horse died or was put down you either sold it to a rendering plant...a truck would come and winch the corpse in and haul it away...or if you had a back hoe or bulldozer you dug a hole in the back forty and dumped it in. Racehorses were often sold at auction and often went to slaughterhouses, but keeping a horse today is such an expensive proposition (housing, vet, farrier) that they are virtually all sport horses and have been liberally dosed with chemicals to control parasites (among other reasons). I'm not sure how long it would take for the chemicals to clear the system, but I doubt anybody would take the time. I wouldn't eat it.

                                                    1. re: Altaira

                                                      If i come across the right Chef who has vast experience preparing horse meat I would try it like any other non endangered exotic. Having said that, I am quite content with customary proteins.

                                                      PS: The bulldozer / back hoe method would probably violate many ordinances in this day and age. Kind of makes you look back to a simpler time when routine things seemed far less complicated

                                              2. Just returned from a week in Paris. Horse-meat was all over the European news, except that the French were puzzled by the alarm.

                                                I suggest that using the description: "ground mammal flesh" would suffice where ambiguity is necessary.

                                                10 Replies
                                                1. re: mrgrunko

                                                  Is the issue over there one of food safety or is it an emotional issue related to killing and eating what many consider a noble animal?

                                                  1. re: Tom34

                                                    food safety and honesty in labeling.

                                                    horsemeat is not taboo in other cultures.

                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                      Are the safety issues significant & unique to a horse?

                                                      1. re: Tom34

                                                        race horses are often given "performance-enhancing" drugs, just like other professional athletes. so yes, unique to horse, since most other domesticated meat we eat just stands around.

                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          I was way off base as I was thinking along the lines of possibly parasites or some other similar issue. Prior to this Chow discussion I never gave the subject any serious thought.

                                                          Does some significant time pass between retirement & slaughter & would the drugs still be present in the muscle tissue at time of slaughter.... or..... does the problem stem from eating meat where the muscle growth was significantly influenced by the drugs over an extended period of time?

                                                          1. re: Tom34

                                                            hard to say, but i'm guessing if a racehorse can't be "rehomed" pretty quickly it's off to the slaughterhouse. they're a commodity.

                                                            it's not just racehorses though, and since these animals were not raised as "food" the safety standards get blurry.

                                                  2. re: mrgrunko

                                                    In the UK, there's some cultural "yech" factor to eating horse - but it's not even disastrous because of the horsemeat -- there are several abattoirs in the UK who have reported that sales of horsemeat have been skyrocketing, whether to host a smartass dinner, or out of sheer curiousity.

                                                    On the continent, there's no yech factor - some like it, most don't care for it, but nobody's fussed about eating horse.

                                                    It's a major-league breach of trust, though -- truth in labeling, etc., etc. -- and the French folks I work with are shocked and pretty pissed that someone is messing with their food.

                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                      "Host a smartass dinner" ....I like that :)

                                                      1. re: Tom34

                                                        wouldn't that be donkey-meat then? ;)

                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          I was thinking more along the lines of a succulent slab of Seattle Slew with his number on each side of the presentation plate and saddles as seats :)

                                                          Now that you brought it up, whats the fate of old #7 "Mule meat" :)

                                                  3. http://suppversity.blogspot.com/2013/...

                                                    Quoting from the above:

                                                    "In the said study, the researchers from the Dipartimento di Scienze per gli Alimenti, la Nutrizione e l'Ambiente at the University of Milano investigated the "long-term" (=90 days) effects of regular horse meat (2x 175g per week) consumption on the health of 26 of the 52 healthy volunteers who participated in their study and compared them to the 26 participants who were told to abstain from horse-meat for the full three months study period. The results were absolutely unequivocal: Horse meat, as red and culturally depreciated as it may be let to..

                                                    significant reductions in serum levels of total (-6.2%) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL; -9.1%) and transferrin levels (- 4.6%), as well as

                                                    increases in total omega-3 content /+7.8%), omega-3s (+8%) and docosahexeanoic acid (DHA; +11%) in the red blood cells of the subjects (p < 0.005 for all


                                                    As exciting as these observations may sound, the study design makes it difficult to say whether they were a result of replacing horse-meat for other meats or simply eating meat at all."

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: KWagle

                                                      I saw on the news this weekend that there is a meat processing plant in Arizona which has applied for a horse meat license and they are just about two inspections away from getting it. Since the lift of the ban in 2011, the USDA will have no choice but to grant permission if they meet all codes. The plant will not be selling the meat domestically, but exporting all product to Europe. The USDA has asked congress to reinstate the ban, however, that seems unlikely at this point.