Ever since the horse meat scandal broke out I’ve been amazed with the way people react. Instead of being concerned about the mis-labeling of the products they simply seem more upset about eating horse meat.
Let me just tell you that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating horsemeat. Horsemeat is a delicacy in many countries. It has been for thousands of years.
In the late Paleolithic (Magdalenian Era), wild horses formed an important source of food. In many parts of Europe, the consumption of horse meat continued throughout the Middle Ages until modern times, despite a Papal ban of horse meat in 732. Horse meat was also eaten as part of Germanic pagan religious ceremonies in northern Europe, particularly ceremonies associated with the worship of Odin.
Domesticated horses and cattle did not exist in the Americas until the Age of Discovery, and the Conquistadors owed much of their success to their war horses. The Europeans’ horses became feral, and were hunted by the indigenous Pehuenche people of what is now Chile and Argentina. At first they hunted horses as they did other game, but later they began to raise them for meat and transport. The meat was, and still is, preserved by being sun-dried in the high Andes into a product known as charqui.
France dates its taste for horse meat to the Revolution. With the fall of the aristocracy, its auxiliaries had to find new means of subsistence. Just as hairdressers and tailors set themselves up to serve commoners, the horses maintained by aristocracy as a sign of prestige ended up alleviating the hunger of lower classes. It was during the Napoleonic campaigns when the surgeon-in-chief of Napoleon’s Grand Army, Baron Dominique-Jean Larrey, advised the starving troops to eat the meat of horses. At the siege of Alexandria, the meat of young Arab horses relieved an epidemic of scurvy. At the battle of Eylau in 1807, Larrey served horse as soup and bœuf à la mode. In Aspern-Essling (1809), cut from the supply lines, the cavalry used the horses’ breastplates as cooking pots and gunpowder as seasoning, and thus founded a tradition.
Horse meat gained widespread acceptance in French cuisine during the later years of the Second French Empire. The high cost of living in Paris prevented many working-class citizens from buying meat such as pork or beef, so in 1866 the French government legalized the eating of horse meat and the first butcher’s shop specializing in horse meat opened in eastern Paris, providing quality meat at lower prices. During the Siege of Paris (1870–1871), horse meat was eaten by anyone who could afford it, partly because of a shortage of fresh meat in the blockaded city, and also because horses were eating grain which was needed by the human populace. Many Parisians gained a taste for horse meat during the siege, and after the war ended, horse meat remained popular. Likewise, in other places and times of siege or starvation, horses are viewed as a food source of last resort.
Despite the general Anglophone taboo, horse and donkey meat was eaten in Britain, especially in Yorkshire, until the 1930s, and in times of post-war food shortage surged in popularity in the United States and was considered for use in hospitals. A 2007 Time magazine article about horse meat brought in from Canada to the United States characterized the meat as sweet, rich, superlean, oddly soft meat, and closer to beef than venison.
You should be more upset by the fact that a few people have been mis-labeling your food than you now are with the fact that you’ve eaten horse meat. You enjoyed it when you didn’t know what it was, right?