While one US state gets closer to approving horse-meat slaughter, the EU continues inspections and recalls for beef adulterated with horse meat. This past weekend (Feb. 24), IKEA recalled its infamous meatballs from 14 European countries, sold in its food market and cafe. German inspectors found horse meat in sandwich shops like the one pictured here. And closer to home, the Oklahoma legislature may approve horse meat slaughter for international export, according to reports in Food Safety News.
Both situations are raising questions as to whether US meat is adulterated with horse meat, particularly when brands familiar to US customers are listed in the EU recall. Last week, Nestle also reported horse meat in a Buitoni frozen pasta, a similar brand name sold in the United States. To date, the USDA says they inspect all meat imports and only test when there is a suspected problem. FDA says they haven't had any reports regarding frozen meat products.
According to Food Safety News, it is more likely that private testing would uncover a problem. The tests are similar to those done for Angus beef and bison authenticity. If private tests do uncover horse meat adulteration, at this point voluntary admission is the only way it might be discovered. But US beef companies say the supply chain is short and tightly monitored so horse meat adulteration is unlikely.
However, horse meat processing in the United States may be approved shortly, which could introduce a horse meat export market and even approval for consumption in the US. The Oklahoma Senate is close to approving bill (SB) 375 that would allow horse slaughter operations for international meat exporting. The bill became possible when in 2011, the Obama Administration agreed to lift a USDA funding ban out of interest to abandoned and wild horses that are in poor health.
Rep. Sue Wallis (WY) is calling for approval of horse slaughter and consumption in the U.S. Wallis application is among others in Missouri, Iowa and New Mexico with USDA. Wallis is supporting the change because she believes that restaurant chefs and consumers want to see cheval, the gourmet name for horse meat, on the American plate for its taste, lean profile and affordable costs. She says horse meat is generally about 40 percent cheaper than beef.
The Agricultural Resource Center says that approximately 25,000 horses of U.S. origin are killed at Canadian slaughterhouses and 11,000 are sent to Mexican slaughterhouses each year for consumption. The agency believes that the growing number of ethnic groups in the US would support horse meat sales, as they have goat meat. It's not clear whether the American public would support such an idea, given the iconic status of horses as companion animals and for their role in American history.
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