Horsemeat scandal in Europe shouldn’t be such a big issue

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A meat thermometer ensured that each steak was cooked to the same level of doneness during the recent American Royal Steak Competition. (Keith Myers/Kansas City Star/MCT)

Recently I was reading the German magazine Der Spiegel, just checking the value of my bratwurst stocks, when I saw there’s a big scandal in Europe over beef. More precisely, what is in the beef: Apparently there’s horsemeat in there, people!

It has been found in lasagna, what was supposed to be beef hamburger, and most recently, in Nestle brand “chilled pasta,” which I imagine is chocolate beef paste rolled into a noodle and served to the homeless in Switzerland as a joke.

Now, it’s wrong people were lied to and tricked into eating something other than what was advertised (because that totally doesn’t happen all the time with fast food), but what exactly is wrong with eating a horse?

At first I thought about how eating the Black Stallion might be disturbing, but then I remembered another fictional animal. Have you seen “Babe”? That adorable piggy was probably eventually ground into sausage.

America’s distaste for horsemeat seems to stem from being a former colony of Great Britain, where you can eat blood pudding, but not horse steak.

There isn’t even a special word in English for horsemeat. Cow meat is beef, pig meat is pork and chicken gets KFC.

We don’t have a proper name for horsemeat likely due to our view of horses as companion pets and workers. Because in 2013 we all have a family horse and gallop to class every morning.

The funny thing is, horsemeat is actually healthier than beef. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a government-funded resource for molecular biology information, horsemeat has 6 percent fat, compared to beef’s 14.1 percent and pork’s 16.1 percent.

But other animal food products have been taboo in the past as well. For most of American history, lobsters were only eaten by poor people and considered akin to gigantic bugs. Now people drop major dollars for their meat. Somehow oysters are also fine to eat here. The first oyster I ever ate cost $5 and looked like a split rock filled with meaty slime, but man was it delicious.

In the Bible, shellfish and pork are forbidden and considered disgusting, yet many Bible-reading Americans have no problem stuffing their faces with shrimp and bacon all year round. Other ignored Biblical prohibitions include rabbit, cow and pig heart, tongue, liver, crawfish, ostrich and frog. Hindus in India are revolted by our consumption of beef and organ meats. The truth is culinary taboos are largely arbitrary.

It seems strange that in America it’s considered acceptable to eat Bambi but not Mr. Ed.

It’s not wrong to not want to eat horse, but there is prejudice against people who do, which is based on fundamentally flawed logic. We are somehow able to eat bacon and also be okay with eating Babe or Wilbur. In fact, adorable little Babe is still alive in our minds and completely separated from the bacon. But when eating horsemeat, it’s like you are eating every beloved horse in history.

So if you ever find yourself in a French restaurant, consider sparing the cow and order the cheval instead. Actually, order a nice salad; It’s way better for you.


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