Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
8 Nov

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

horseBeing 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! icon wink

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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  1. 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 :)

    Breanna wrote on March 24th, 2011
  2. 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.

    David wrote on August 3rd, 2011
    • 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. Personally, I think this kind of religious-bigotry-enshrined-in-law has absolutely no place in modern American society.

      The Icelanders on the other hand, one of the last heathen areas to be subjugated by the church, were able to negotiate a special exception to this in the agreement with the king of Norway that made christianity Iceland’s state religion. It’s still popular (and delicious) there today.

      Jim wrote on November 6th, 2013
  3. 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.

    Arty wrote on November 8th, 2011
  4. 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

    Patrick wrote on April 10th, 2012
  5. mmmm… popcorn dolphin…

    Dwayne wrote on June 30th, 2012
  6. Yea they also eat Horse meat in certain parts of Sweden. I went there a few summers ago because I have some friends there. One of my buddies lives on a lake there and at night we would go on this huge sauna at the end of a dock. Horse salami and beer was the snack of choice in the sauna

    Kaichee wrote on July 12th, 2012
  7. In Japan I have eaten raw horse (widely available) on many occasions and horse meat sukiyaki (novelty).

    It is quite tasty.

    edward wrote on December 3rd, 2012
  8. It’s the fact that horses are like dogs for people in the U.S. They are pets and companions.

    Kim wrote on January 15th, 2013
  9. We love horse meat , my favourite is to eat it raw , very lean and nutritious .I did slaughter a few Brumbies in Autralia ,nothing tastes better . I would love to get myself one now .

    Michel wrote on February 12th, 2013
  10. This is because the chemicals and medicines used most commonly by American horse owners are banned or restricted from use in food animals.so its not good for people to eat it ..duh!

    Diana wrote on February 13th, 2013
  11. This is because the chemicals and medicines used most commonly by American horse owners are banned or restricted from use in food animals.so its not good for people to eat it ..

    Diana wrote on February 13th, 2013
  12. In his book “The White Goddess”, Robert Graves speculates that the taboo on eating horse in the English-speaking world dates back to the British Celts before the Roman conquest. It’s clear that these Celts (unlike their continental cousins) held the horse to be sacred; horses are shown on their coins, among other things, and the Uffington Horse is likely of Celtic origin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uffington_White_Horse.

    Given that the taboo against hippophagy is so exclusive to modern cultures that trace their origins back to Britain, I thing Graves might have it right.

    Personally I wouldn’t mind giving horse a try someday.

    David wrote on February 17th, 2013
  13. Just the thought of a beautiful majestic stallion taking his last breath to be someone’s meal? How selfish did humans become? Did God not give us enough food to eat on this planet that we need horse? When will people ever be satisfied with what they have?? People going out of their way to eat horse, spending top dollar for it while their are people starving in this world; people that could only wish to get their hands on chicken feet. Very ungrateful world we’ve become.

    Anita wrote on November 6th, 2013

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