Relax, It’s Just Horse Meat

Mislabeled lasagna has sent Europe into a tizzy, but equine protein is really no worse to eat than beef.

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Europe has its collective knickers in a bunch over the influx of horse meat into its food.

The thousands of frozen lasagnas recalled by not one but two companies this week is just the latest incident of mislabeled mare making its way into meals—causing a European uproar.Brits are particularly perturbed by the concept of broncos in their burgers. The U.K.’s Food Standard Agency has ordered all processed foods to be tested, while British grocery stores are displaying signs aimed at easing the minds of distressed shoppers. To be sure, eating horse meat is not illegal in the U.K., nor does it pose much of a health risk—it’s just utterly offensive to a people known for taking pride in its ponies. The meat is being recalled because it was mislabeled.Not everyone is as distraught as the English. After all, elsewhere in Europe, such as France, Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium horse meat has been embraced as a perfectly acceptable, cheaper alternative to beef for years, as it has in Japan. It may be taboo, but eating horse poses no more health risks than eating cow—in fact, as the product of such an athletic animal, horse meat contains significantly more iron and vitamin B12 than beef. The French company that supplied some of the frozen meals in question has assured British supermarkets that the “horse meat evidence in question does not raise any public-health issue.” Before we point our fingers and laugh at the uptight Brits, however, we should ask ourselves whether we in the U.S. would be so tolerant of taking Mr. Ed to the slaughterhouse. It was over a year and a half after the U.S. ban on slaughtering horses for human consumption was lifted that the first person applied to the USDA to open a horse slaughterhouse—and that person intended to export his meat to Mexico, not sell it domestically. Americans are still just as squeamish about eating our equine friends as our cousins across the pond.