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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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November 08, 2007

Why Don’t We Eat Horse? It’s Nutritious.

By Mark Sisson
82 Comments

Being a frequent globe trotter, I’m always baffled and amused by the great variety of cultural norms, particularly when it comes to diet. For years I traveled to China on business, where I tried out rat meat. Carrie and I love going to Thailand, where it’s not unheard of to eat dog. The French enjoy – as do many European cultures – frogs’ legs, snails and horse. Scandinavians relish fermented herring (not a pleasure I share). Many cultures around the world eat insects, grubs and all manner of meat. But every culture has its taboos. Here in the States, horse is certainly the biggest taboo.

Why don’t we eat horse? It’s nutritious.

Make no mistake. I’m not making an argument in favor of eating horse. I’m simply asking out of curiosity. Why don’t we eat horse? Having a vegetarian son and a semi-vegetarian wife, discussions about sentient beings, animal welfare, and cultural standards are frequent in our household. For example, why do we consider cows to be perfectly acceptable plate fixins’ when they are capable of learning, forming bonds, and are in fact quite intelligent? Sure, perhaps they’re a little less sensitive than horses and they like to stand around (I guess), but that doesn’t seem like a rigorous argument to me at all. We think of horses as pets, but the truth is we have no problem grinding them up for other uses. Horse farming is a booming business. And we all know the old glue jokes. If the thought of horse meat horrifies you, you should know we already produce a whole lot of it – we just sell it overseas, where people think nothing of tucking into a sizzling plate of whinny.

Arguments against horse meat consumption usually include the following:

– Horses have feelings/are advanced animals. And pigs aren’t?

– Horses are traditionally pets or workers. So are many other types of livestock.

– It’s just wrong. Feeling something is wrong doesn’t make it so.

If we can set aside emotions for a moment, let’s ask ourselves why we choose to eat some animals’ flesh and not others. If you agree that animal flesh should be included in the diet (my personal view), why shouldn’t we eat horse? It’s high in protein, low in calories, tasty, and sanctioned by the USDA. I’m an advocate of red meat. I have no problem with saturated fat. Our cells are made of it, after all. Horse meat is one of the most nutritious red meats on the planet. Personally, I’m perfectly happy with my grass-fed beef, organic chicken, and wild fish. But I guess I like to think about these cultural idiosyncrasies and ask why we follow certain practices so resolutely, when there is little, if any, logical reason to do so.

Happy Thursday! πŸ˜‰

Further reading:

What I eat in a day (not horse)

Which fork is for the grubs?

Why the Atkins Diet works

Why vegans are misguided

Raw food gets served

Horse graphic source

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82 Comments on "Why Don’t We Eat Horse? It’s Nutritious."

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Caloi Rider
8 years 10 months ago

You should see the reactions I get when I tell people I’ve eaten mountain lion (or cougar, call it what you will).

Sara
8 years 10 months ago

I have eaten termites. Not very exciting, I know.

Lisa B
Lisa B
8 years 10 months ago

ALL animals have feelings and intelligent. They are living beings deserving of our respect and friendship. One day humans will see that all animals have a right to live on this earth.

Kaleb
Kaleb
4 years 10 months ago

ummm what about chickens? They have no brain stimulation and run off nerves…and they are not intelligent,they have the memory of like 5 seconds. So why respect them? They are meant to eat thats why god put them here.

THINK FIRST
THINK FIRST
4 years 10 months ago

YOU HAVE A VERY SIMPLISTIC PERSPECTIVE OF YOUR RELATION TO THE WORLD YOU LIVE IN. YOU TAKE YOUR PERSPECTIVE FOR GRANTED WITHOUT QUESTION OF CONTRASTING POSSIBILITIES.CHICKENS ARE ACTUALLY VERY INTELLIGENT, BOND WITH THEIR OWNERS AND SHOW AFFECTION. BETTER TO EAT CHICKEN AND NOT MAKE THE LEAP THAT THE ONLY REASON THEY ARE HERE IS BECAUSE THEY TASTE GOOD TO YOU.

Xfingxfing
Xfingxfing
3 years 8 months ago

Wow…calm down.

A Concerned Cannibal
A Concerned Cannibal
3 years 6 months ago

Meat is murder.

Tasty, tasty murder.

Brian
Brian
8 years 10 months ago
LMAO… Well, Lisa, as life long carnivore, I feel it is my duty consume as much protein as possible, and that includes any number of different animals, and I must say I respected every single one of them as the gave me nourishment πŸ™‚ And while I have tried all sort of different protein -bear, snake, alligator, cows, pigs, lamb, deer, buffalo, all sorts of fowl and fish — well list list goes on and on… But, I have yet to try horse, but it’s supposed to be really good and lean like emu. So I’ll have to rectify that… Read more »
Kaichee
Kaichee
4 years 2 months ago

Yea Dolphin also has one of the highest mercury and toxin levels of any animal.

Xfingxfing
Xfingxfing
3 years 8 months ago

You’re not a carnivore except in your weirdo Macho Caveman meets liberal elitist Foodie fantasy world. You’re an omnivore. I love eating meat, but seriously, Anyone with at least one eye and half an A-hole knows that too much of anything, even protein, is not good for you.

Scott Kustes
8 years 10 months ago

This is a question I’ve often asked when people turn up their nose at dog or cat meat. I’ve never had either, but I would. It’s just another form of red meat. It’s similar to the confusion over why the average person will drink cow’s milk, but not horse milk, pig milk, or better yet, human milk.

Scott Kustes
Modern Forager

Ari Holzer
8 years 10 months ago

One reason: Horses aren’t kosher. Of course, that applies to pigs, too.

Xfingxfing
Xfingxfing
3 years 8 months ago

Well, good for new then.

Judy
Judy
8 years 10 months ago
I’m mostly vegetarian, although I did eat a pound of grass-fed organic beef earlier this week, about 1/4 of my annual intake. I’ve always wondered about these things, too. If someone is going to eat animals, and they have no religious restrictions on certain animals, then why eat some but not others? I know it’s cultural, and I understand some of the reasons for it, but why can’t people get past that? On another blog recently they were talking about eating bison and elk (which are both really good, btw, as well as moose meat – the first meal my… Read more »
samantha
samantha
2 years 5 months ago

here here!
i am always absolutely amazed when someone downs a mystery meat, factory farmed burger from a fast food joint, but balks at the fact that i will kill, gut and eat a deer.

wouldnt you rather eat an animal that lived a natural life and died a quick and respectful death?

Lisa B
Lisa B
8 years 10 months ago

Brian, honestly it’s pretty sad that you are so glib but that is par for the course I guess. Your “duty” to kill living creatures?

Brian
Brian
8 years 10 months ago

Well I wasn’t being glib… I have put a lot of thought into being a carnivore πŸ™‚ Personally believe in being at the top of the food chain, and enjoy hunting and eating what I hunt- it’s the natural order after all, but if you want to be down with the bovine and ovine… then more power to you, just watch out for that grizzly πŸ™‚

Xfingxfing
Xfingxfing
3 years 8 months ago

Go out into the woods with nothing but a buck knife, see how long you’re top of the food chain….any fat old beer guzzling slob can shoot an animal…but you honestly don’t sound like you’ve ever even done that much. If Brian was for real he wouldn’t be talkin’ fool…the only things he’s likely ever hunted for is Easter eggs.

Lisa B
Lisa B
8 years 10 months ago

But that’s just the problem – we are part of the web of life, not the “top of the chain”. You truly enjoy killing? I guess I will never understand that way of thinking, that it is somehow natural. I mean a lot of bad things are natural – but we don’t do them.

Dan
8 years 10 months ago
Wow. Pretty interesting stuff. Personally, I couldn’t bring myself to eat Mr. Ed. Having been a personal trainer in Lexington, KY (the horse capital of the world), I’ve had too much contact with horses to see them any differently than family pets. But then again, for some, Belle the family cow is probably a pet too. I’m all for nutritious eating, but since it really isn’t America’s culture to eat horse patties (plus, eating horse isn’t going to create this wonderful improvement in our society’s health), we probably shouldn’t try and change it. Let’s stick with cows; we already have… Read more »
Razan
3 years 9 months ago
breath. avidce. i bucked husbands horse many times still i couldnt stall night. bucking being lead anymore ( spooked barn reared up trampled ) really frusterating feel worse everyday ( husband back surgery i ride horses training lapse solely responsible getting 8 horses out everyday) i recently over . i having neighbor come over night i everyother horse i couldnt passed smashing head. i realized everyday i wasnt taking out stall concentrating worse. one morning i . i took really long deep breaths. took one time everything well gaining confidence back. being bucked totally normal bodies natural response. breath way… Read more »
Sonagi
Sonagi
8 years 10 months ago
While living in Korea, the topic of eating dogmeat came up frequently in discussions. We’re part of the food chain, and all edible animals are fair game as long as they are raised and slaughtered as humanely as possible. This isn’t just compassionate; Purdue University researchers found that animals subjected to stress yieled lower quality meat with a pH that was either too high or too low depending on the type of stress (neglect versus trauma during slaughter). My objection to dog eating in Korea wasn’t the fact that dogs are raised for meat but rather the extremely brutal methods… Read more »
Dave C.
Dave C.
8 years 10 months ago

I didn’t mind that the Koreans ate dog; however, it was rough being around when the summer kimchi started seeing the light of day! πŸ™‚

Gretchen
Gretchen
8 years 10 months ago

Brian, you are a horse’s arse. I put you at number 15 on the chart at the top of this post.

Lemur
Lemur
8 years 10 months ago
Scott, your point about different animal milk came to my mind, too. People happily chug cow milk, but are repulsed by the thought of human milk. Dan, my family lives in Lexington, and when I lived there I worked at Hill’n’Dale. I currently work at a stable here in VA. I would probably have a hard time eating horse for the same reason, I definitely couldn’t eat a horse I knew. But I could probably eat it in a restaurant or something, as long as it was already prepared. I know logically that one animal really shouldn’t differ from another… Read more »
Mel Practice
8 years 10 months ago

Being vegan I’m constantly amazed by the irony of people fighting for some animals rights tooth and nail while standing by devouring others. I mean what’s the damn difference if it’s cow ass or horse ass really? Just have some tempeh and be done with it. πŸ˜‰

m
m
4 years 4 months ago

Why do you care? I don’t like soy products very much, like tempeh, because it’s just to…fake. I’ve eaten meat products no one would wanna try, chicken feet anyone? And a question I ask you, why is a vegan on a paleo/primal lifestyle blog? That’s just as much sense as us go on a PETA blog.

Brian
Brian
8 years 10 months ago

Wow… thanks Gretch… that means a lot coming from you, must mean I’m on the right track. Oh, BTW, I’ve missed your sunny disposition. πŸ™‚

Robin
Robin
8 years 10 months ago

We don’t eat our friends.

Who we befriend is of course cultural and arbitrary.

Marie
Marie
8 years 10 months ago

I’ve started eating some white meat chicken…and the occasional thin-hurry-up-and-eat-it-before-I-actually-taste- the-meat-BK-burger…so that I can increase my protein comsumption, but eew it’s all so gross. Talk like this makes me wanna just have some toast for breakfast. I guess some of us just weren’t meant to be carvivores…and some of us (Brian!) were.
Still don’t think we should eat our friends though.

Joe Matasic
Joe Matasic
8 years 10 months ago

I’m supposed to go to France and Italy next year for my honeymoon and I’ll be sure to keep and eye out for horse meat to try. I’ll pretty much try any meat. It may take me a little while and something to back it up with but most of all its getting over the stuff in my head. Then I’m fine and trying to convince others its good. Same as sushi, seafood, whatever to people who won’t try it.

Jonas Cronfeld
Jonas Cronfeld
8 years 10 months ago
After reading this article I called all the butcher’s in my area to find one with horse meat. I found one 200 meters from my door, and walked down and bought 1 kg of minced horse beef. It costed me 36 kr (Danish currency), which is about 7 dollars. That was very cheap compared to other kinds of meet over here. I don’t know how much fat there was in it, but it seemed very lean, and I guess there’s not much fat on a horse anyways. It tasted really really good, I made 2 minced meat patty’s, 500 g… Read more »
Frankie
Frankie
3 years 8 months ago

Was that an intentional joke – making horse meat a “stable” in your diet? If so: well played.

Sara
8 years 10 months ago

Jonas, let me know how you fare πŸ˜‰

Kery
8 years 10 months ago
I ate horse a few times, but it’s not a meat I can very often find in our supermarkets, that’s true. I don’t know why either. I agree that someone may refuse to eat meat for whatever reason, but then, indeed, why make a distinction? What makes cow meat more acceptable than horse meat? I don’t know. We’re not exactly at the top of the chain IMHO–well, we’re sort of there until something more dangerous at a given moment decides to gnaw through us. πŸ˜‰ But if we were designed to process protein and digest meat, I guess it’s for… Read more »
Joshua
Joshua
8 years 10 months ago

Why don’t we eat humans? Not your neighbor, but humans raised for the purpose of food. There’s plenty of us around, so it wouldn’t be like eating an endangered species. In the end, it’s no different than eating any other animal.I’m not necessarily for or against cannibalism, just making a point.

Hi
Hi
5 years 4 months ago

May be we could start by eating you! πŸ˜€

Xfingxfing
Xfingxfing
3 years 8 months ago

No Joshua you’re not just making a point, you’re just being a loser.

Bill
Bill
8 years 10 months ago
I always feel compelled to respond when people try to present the hunter-gatherer diet as “most natural” and therefore most healthful. I guess that depends on how you define those terms. Must not be in terms of length of life–the average lifespan of hunter-gatherers vs. agricultural societies, to wit–and among agricultural societies, the percentage of animal protein being eaten being directly and very tightly correlated with the incidence of chronic disease (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.), according to the largest and most rigorous scientific study of diet ever done, which was launched under the Centers for Disease Control in the… Read more »
Jen
Jen
8 years 10 months ago
It seems like most Americans say they would eat horse to amuse themselves or their friends and because they can so somehow it’s fun to prove their superiority in the food chain by eating whatever moves just for the heck of it. Like guys scratching their balls to remind themselves how manly they are. If non psychotic people saw how it happened they wouldn’t do it. It takes a certain mentality to do what is done to these animals. The thing with horses is they are only getting slaughtered because we over breed and it’s the cheapest way to dispose… Read more »
rach
rach
8 years 9 months ago

people are so sick, animals are friends Not food!
(get it straight) ” Stop killing and just live “

GeriMorgan
7 years 1 month ago

You cannot live without killing. It is simply impossible. Although you can avoid consuming animal flesh, plants too carry a heavy death toll – for the plants themselves, often, and for the many small animals who were killed to preserve the plants for your consumption. The next time you sink your teeth into an ear of corn or some tofu, think of the raccoon who was brutally trapped and killed so that that food could make it safely to your plate.

Alex
Alex
3 years 9 months ago
This is entirely untrue for people who eat sustainable, local, and organic produce maintained by people like me who use natural deterrents and predators…please educate yourself. As to the question ‘why is horse meat not eaten?’ My guess is because horses have always be represented as noble, loyal, and intelligent friends of humans, which they are, as are other creatures. As for the people defending meat consumption, and giving other cultures as examples… most of the said cultures treat animals TERRIBLY and do not value life much at all, hence most of their living situations and inhumane treatment of their… Read more »
Xfingxfing
Xfingxfing
3 years 8 months ago

Alex, you get educated…..other cultures, as opposed to where….you think cattle, pigs and chickens are treated wonderful in your perfect culture? I eat meat, a lot of it, but I’m not arrogant or stupid enough to suggest those damn foreigners treat their food animals any worse than we do.

Xfingxfing
Xfingxfing
3 years 8 months ago

Is it ok if we kill plants…or billions of insects that might harm our plant food, so that we can just live….or are carrots, peas and potatoes our friends too?

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[…] Why Don’t We Eat Horse? […]

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[…] Why Don’t We Eat Horse? It’s Nutritious. […]

Clifford
Clifford
8 years 6 months ago

I agree with Brian on this one. However, I’m glad I can just go to the supermarket and get the meat of my desire. That way I don’t have to kill it myself. I have decided to adopt Lisa. I’m going to triple my meat consumption for you. If you would like you could purchase from me your meat offsets.

cjm
cjm
7 years 5 months ago

horses have a special place in American mythology, from the frontier days. It was a capital offense to steal a horse (at least on tv).

Andrew
Andrew
5 years 2 months ago

Yes, this. Horses were the transportation and the workhorses (see?) of American culture until the internal combustion engine, will all its horsepower, was created. You don’t eat the seed potatoes, and you don’t eat the horses, get it?

I’ve eaten a lot of exotic animals, including lion, but never a horse. The one chance I’ve had was in Japan, and it was basically raw. I would like to try it sometime when it has been cooked a little longer.

fatima
fatima
7 years 5 months ago

People in central asia consume horse meat on regular basis. Especially in Kazakhstan it is considered a treat. Horse meat is kind of tough but when it’s made into a sausagge known as “kazi”, it can be delicious. Although, people say that too much of horse meat consumption can affect the blood pressure…dont know how true that is.
so, yeah, i guess horse meat concept is quite a cultural thing for americans. There is nothing wrong with it.
In South Korea people eat dogs… so, now think about your (dog) pet that you have grown up with…will cultural differences make it wrong?!

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[…] Why Don’t We Eat Horse? It’s Nutritious. […]

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[…] Stray cats. (What? Meat is meat. […]

Skull Shirt
7 years 3 months ago

All vegetarians should watch the nature channel. …I’m just saying.

Just My Thoughts
Just My Thoughts
7 years 2 months ago

I give that a 10/10 but then doing so would destroy their delusional illusions!

Alex
Alex
3 years 9 months ago

I am not a big cat. Just sayin’

A D
A D
6 years 10 months ago

Late response but: horse is delicious! Raw horse is common in izakaya (drinking holes) in Japan, where I live. It’s tender and full of flavor. And yes, whale is also quite tasty but I have never ordered it (one can never be sure if what they are eating is endangered or not), only tried a few pieces when people around me have ordered it.

Grok
6 years 10 months ago

I don’t discriminate. There is absolutely no reason for it, unless you flat out don’t like the flavor.

Check out my rant here:
http://castlegrok.com/what-our-ancestors-ate/

SP1
SP1
6 years 10 months ago
A friend mentioned he had it horse sashimi in Japan recently too–I did some research, found a couple places here in Vancouver that serve it, got some nerve up, and tried it last month. It was fantastic. In fact I found another place and had it there too. Not only delicious, but makes for lively and heated discussion at work! I had NEVER had any interest in eating horse previously but for me life is all about learning and experiencing. Especially knocking down preconceived notions or ‘beliefs’ that are not necessarily logical or based on intelligent, conscious decisions–dietary or otherwise.… Read more »
Kari
Kari
6 years 10 months ago
Jonas! I am soo envious! Great price and easy to get? man – I need to take the ferry and drop by denmark in the future, for some shopping πŸ˜‰ As a norwegian (one of those Scandinavian countries) I really want to give you a real food experience, Mark – with sour herring and smoke salmon ++ – I’m sure I could change your mind ! πŸ˜› In Norway the reason why we don’t eat horse is because of Christianity. I don’t know if this is why you don’t eat horse in the US, but since the US was populated… Read more »
Akira Kobayashi
Akira Kobayashi
6 years 6 months ago

Is there a decently economical way to get ahold of horse meat? It would be fun to try it.

Jess
Jess
6 years 6 months ago

I tried some raw horse (bazashi) in Kumamoto, Japan. They’re famous for it and I can see why… it’s even better than fish sashimi. I’ll probably have some more next time I’m there.

In Japan, at least where I went, it’s taboo to eat deer… my girlfriend freaked out when I told her my dad hunts deer and I like the taste of it.

Richad
Richad
5 years 11 months ago

Horse meat is taboo in much of the West due to it being banned by the Pope, along with consumption of dog, because they were useful animals. I suppose the argument also applies to cattle pulling plows, but we eat those. Check wikipedia “Horse Meat”.

Dana
5 years 9 months ago
I’m surprised I was able to read through this entire post. I’ve always considered horses as pets, not food, but then again so can be pigs, cows, and chickens. Horses were afterall one of the frequently hunted herbivores in caveman days long before domestication. Even the beginnings of domestication were meant to keep our food sources close once we realized these animals could be tamed. It seems we’re always and always will be in a state of contradiction. My meat mostly comes from cows, chickens and the very occasional pig (bacon mostly) and even more rarely deer, bison and wild… Read more »
Tam
Tam
5 years 8 months ago

I wouldn’t eat horse, or pork, I think both animals are amazingly intelligent and a beautiful example of evolution on this planet.

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[…] when I asked if horse was Primal? Well how about beaver? Bug Girl’s Blog found some beaver […]

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[…] Why Don’t We Eat Horse? It’s Nutritious. – What’s the difference between horsemeat and pig meat? Why do we eat one but not the other? Does horse farming exist? Find out. […]

Breanna
Breanna
5 years 6 months ago

Wow, I can’t believe no one has brought this up… The reason you SHOULD NOT eat horse meat! Most slaughtered horses were previously owned by people, meaning their bodies were most likely filled with drugs that are labeled DO NOT USE ON ANIMALS INTENDED FOR FOOD. There is supposed to be a period of time (somewhere around a year) to allow the drugs to get out of the system, but this rarely happens. These horses are then shipped to places like France and Japan. Happy eating πŸ™‚

David
David
5 years 1 month ago

Horses were sacred animals for the early Germanic tribes. They were sacrificed for gods, so there was a taboo on mortals eating the meat. Most Northern Europeans (and by extension, white Americans) are descended from those early Germanic tribes.

Jim
Jim
2 years 10 months ago
This is almost exactly wrong actually. Horses (and other animals) sacrificed to the gods would always have been eaten as part of the sacred feast. Eating horse as a Yule feast sacred to Odin was particularly common. These practices, including the consumption of horse meat, were outlawed by the church once these people were forcibly converted. American’s taboo of eating horse is almost entirely a holdover from the historical repression of traditional Germanic religious practice, as our country was (at least initially) largely settled and its legal and cultural institutions established by people from Northern Europe, as you point out.… Read more »
Arty
Arty
4 years 10 months ago

I would think from an evolutionary perspective we were meant to eat horse.
I believe that predators are meant to eat herbivores, and horses are one of those.

But, at this time and age I would say we let this magnificent animal live out its life on green pasture.
I also think horse would be mostly lean muscle meat and quite tough to chew, unless eaten either raw or cooked for several hours.

Patrick
Patrick
4 years 5 months ago

I have tried horse , ground meat, it is too lean for me , I didn’t like the taste much for that reason . A bit of fat gives beef a better flavour . And that’s why sausages are so yummy . Octopus or squid are a delicacy ? , terrible !, they taste like rubber, awful; to each their own , chicken is just fine thanks

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