Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Say Whoa to the meatballs?

Years ago, way back when we lived in Panorama City, right in the heart of the San Fernando valley, a scandal broke concerning a fast food chain that forever after we've referred to as "Jack in the Pouch." It turned out the hamburgers Jack was peddling were made from kangaroo meat. Not surprisingly, most Americans were thoroughly freaked out by the idea of eating Kanga and 'Roo; as a rule, we don't consider Disney* characters to be edible. The biggest scandal, of course, was that they'd snuck the kangaroo meat in for economic reasons. Ground kangaroo cost less pound per pound than ground beef.

Apparently the same thing is true of horse meat in Europe. Ground horse is cheaper than ground cow, so some meat processors have been stretching the bovine with equine. In a weird twist, it turns out horse meat is healthier for human consumption because it's leaner and less loaded with cholesterol and other bad stuff than beef. Nonetheless, when horse meat was found in ground meat sold by Tesco (a major supermarket chain in Great Britain), consumers were outraged. I can understand the dismay. People like to know just what it is they're grilling; adulteration is a bad thing, regardless of whether the product is being stretched with sea weed, textured soy protein, sawdust, or dead race horses.

Since the original scandal broke, I personally was rather taken aback to learn that one of my favorite food products, the Swedish meatballs served at IKEA (and sold frozen in the Swedish Food Market section of the stores), had been found to contain horse meat. Can I ever look at the 15-meatball plate again and not wonder just what the gravy is hiding? Is it possible to see whip marks from the jockey on a meatball? Can the lingonberry sauce compensate for a nagging sense that I'm chowing down on My Little Pony? How long will it take before someone discovers horse DNA in ground meat being sold as beef in this country?

From a purely pragmatic viewpoint, I don't see why some people are upset by the idea of eating horse meat. Dead animal flesh is dead animal flesh; livestock is livestock. It shouldn't make a difference that horses are more aesthetically pleasing to look at than cattle or that books like Black Beauty and My Friend Flicka were written about horses instead of cows. If it's okay to barbecue beef, than it should be okay to barbecue horses. I personally don't know if I'd ever eat horse meat**, but as long as it was clearly labeled as such, I'd have no problem seeing it sitting in the meat case at the local IGA. Who knows? Maybe if the price of beef and the price of hay both keep climbing, we will be seeing USDA-inspected Dobbin in butchers' cases in the not too distant future.

[*or A. E. Milne icons, if you're a purist.]

[**I didn't think I would be able to eat reindeer meat either but once it was on the plate in front of me Rudolph tasted just fine.]  


  1. Horse meat tastes fine. I have eaten it several times in Kazakhstan where it is the nationally favoured dish. Usually it is more expensive than beef so I was surprised to see it in ground beef.
    Never eaten reindeer but caribou, yes.

  2. It seems that some folks are concerned not because of some horse meat but because of what shots the horses may have been given.

    I'd eat horse meat at least once, just to try it.

  3. What kind of meat you eat and enjoy is determined by cultural norms. Dogs are eaten in some South Asian countries and Northern Eskimos enjoy Muktuk (fermented whale blubber) - Insects, grubs and even human flesh have been considered by some cultures as a delicacy. My favorite meat is moose and I love raw oysters.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  4. I guess with time people will get used to the idea of horsemeat as they have embraced buffalo meat (at least in CA they have.) I think it is the shock of thinking you have eaten one thing and finding out it is another that bothers people. I have never eaten any of the alternatives but I would be open to it.

    Of course, now they say very little of the fish sold is what we think it is.

  5. My horses are Norwegian which is pretty close to Sweden. I better keep an eye on them.


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