Recently, as everyone knows by now, horse meat was found in Swedish meatballs being sold in various parts of Europe, and the Great Horse Scandal of 2013 was off and (pardon me) galloping. From the consternation being voiced in some quarters, you would think that human flesh had been found in the sausages. Of course if the label says the meat is all beef then it ought to be all beef, not flecked with pork to incense the Muslims and Jews, and definitely not contaminated with old Dobbin’s remains to send British and American eaters gasping to the vomitorium. Also, there’s a possibility that the horsemeat might come from a horse that had been treated with the anti-inflammatory medicine, phenylbutazone (bute), which is verboten for human consumption. But as I read the fine print from the FDA, you have a better chance of being hit by a pebble from a passing meteor than getting stoned by bute in horsemeat-“contaminated” meatballs. Did anybody get sick? Did the meatballs taste bad? Did they maybe taste better? Did anybody know they were eating horsemeat until they were told?
Nothing is so fascinating as the way human culture tries to manipulate the food chain to serve whatever religion or tradition is in vogue. In France, horsemeat is served in fine restaurants. In England a chef would have better luck serving up hedgehog than horse.
Humans will eat anything to make a point or to avoid going hungry. Being ultra-omnivorous is probably why we have lasted so long in the food chain. In Frank G, Ashbrook’s “Butchering, Processing and Preservation of Meat,” the book I use as a guide when butchering everything from hogs to raccoons and muskrats, the author describes (from an earlier account) a traditional meal in Tudor England: “One by one, to the blast of trumpets, the tremendous platters of food were borne into the hall. The greatest fanfare was reserved for the wild boar’s head, the stuffed swan, and the roasted peacock, fully dressed with spreading tail and gilded beak.”
American cities have a huge problem and expense because of stray cats and dogs (abandoned by human “pet lovers”) but during the influx of immigrant Vietnamese a few years ago, a solution to the problem was in the offing. Like many Asians, these people are accustomed to eating cats and dogs and they promptly set about solving the problem in California. Horrified, officialdom banned the practice. Stupid, I say. But we live now in a society that is humanizing cats and dogs so much that I wonder if they will soon be allowed to vote. The idolatry of the horse is even more pronounced, more revered than the cowboy and the frontier farmer who made it a cultural icon. Horses are not only not eaten (horrors) but movements are on to prohibit them from being killed for any reason. Old horses are to be retired to die of old age in circumstances a whole lot more comfortable that what starving children in Somalia are experiencing.
The Masai in African slake their thirst with a mix of cow’s blood and milk. In Sumatra, people enjoy a gourmet coffee that comes from beans picked out of the droppings of civet cats. This beverage has a special taste for which some will pay $600 a pound. Locusts are considered fine eating in various parts of the Middle East. I’ve heard that in Thailand roasted dormice are quite a treat.
So what is so bloody wrong with eating horsemeat? I haven’t eaten any, I don’t think, but would like to. Just try to find some in the U.S. It is rated low in cholesterol so is healthier for you than pork or beef.
But never fear, science is (again pardon) galloping to the rescue. According to the latest news on the food front, we will eventually produce meat in vitro in factories. Then you could eat a horse steak that never was a part of a beautiful flowing mane, or flashing Kentucky Derby hooves, or a loving nickering neigh. Or defiled by medical bute or the likes of John Wayne’s butt.