Despite scandals, Alberta still exports horsemeat to other countries around the world. Yet Calgarians are pushing it off their plates

Opinion-IllustrationCalgarians have been scared silly from the recent horse meat scandal and it's hurting Alberta's horse meat industry.

The horsemeat scandal that unfolded in Europe caused numerous companies worldwide to be searched for undeclared traces of horsemeat.

It all started with traces of horse being found where it didn't belong: frozen beef burgers that were being sold at supermarkets in the UK.

That one incident has caused companies to be riddled with accusations and complaints, leading to raids and extensive searches to make sure that there are no other horse surprises in products labeled as beef.horse2 Horses have the stigma of being pets viewed as a meal. Speciesism, like racism, is the phenomenon of putting some animals above others, but there is no real justifiable cause for it, Calgary Journal reporter, Kaity Brown says.

Photo courtesy of AnemoneProjectors/Wikimedia Commons

The BBC explained the rationale for the unsavory business tactics.

"Many believe financial gain is the motive for the fraud - horsemeat is cheaper than other meats in some countries. Some industry insiders say profit margins have been squeezed by supermarkets and it is understandable that people might cut corners."

Quality rumours

But horsemeat, which doesn't have a more demure name such as beef, seems taboo. The main stigma preventing people from giving it a chance, other than the consideration of horses as pets, is that there are rumours about the quality of the meat.

The Alberta beef industry has suffered because of people's skepticism of the good old-fashioned quality beef they once knew.

The mistrust is presumably what led to the only restaurant in Calgary that offered horse, Taste restaurant, to pull it off their menu.

In a Globe and Mail article June 2012, chef Shawn Greenwood of Taste, explained why horse was on his menu.

"It's a delicacy in other parts of the world," he said. "You can buy it in supermarkets in Quebec; it's right next to the lamb and beef."

As well, the chef explained that his horsemeat came from places specifically dedicated to slaughter. Now, without explanation Taste restaurant is saying 'neigh' to horse.

In the midst of the scandal, Calgarians are on the wrong side of the fence.
Horses aren't just pets. In fact, there are farmers who specifically raise horses just for the slaughter.

Why eat one and not the other?

The high consideration and view of horses as superior is a phenomenon known as speciesism, which can cause problems in the handling of animals as food.
The argument about the slaughter of horses being inhumane can't hold its ground because all conditions of animal slaughter around the world should be considered inhumane.

David Douglas, a traveled son of a missionary, has tried horse and he explained this phenomenon.

"Honestly, I feel like it's no more inhumane than what we do to cows or chickens. There are warehouses where they breed chickens and the chickens live their whole lives in darkness and then they are slaughtered."

Douglas also mentioned the concept of speciesism, comparing it to racism.
"An animal is an animal. Whether it's a horse or a cow, it's part of the world that we live in. So why is slaughtering one okay and slaughtering another not okay?"

An article written by John Sorenson of the Rabble News online explained that the horsemeat scandal is an example of the conditions of the global food system.

"The scandal is not so much that the flesh of certain animals rather than others has turned up where it wasn't expected. The entire industry is ghoulish and repellant.

"There may indeed be some specific crimes involved but more generally the entire meat system that kills billions upon billions of animals every year is 'a crime of stupefying proportions'," the author explained.

Waiter, is there horse in this?

The real issue of the scandal should not be forgotten. It's not about horsemeat being contaminated or unsafe to eat, like it seems to be deemed by the media. The issue is that people thought they were eating something else than what they actually were eating.

Nutritionally, horsemeat has the potential to be part of a normal and healthy diet. According to the numbers on nutritionadata.com, horse has fewer calories, more Iron, half the fat and about half the cholesterol of beef.

Per 85g, horsemeat has:

  • 114 calories
  • 18.3g of protein
  • 18 per cent of the daily iron intake
  • 4g of fat
  • 44mg of cholesterol

Beef on the other hand has:

  • 182 calories
  • 23g of protein
  • 14 per cent of the daily intake of Iron
  • 9g of fat
  • 73mg of cholesterol

Taste-wise, there have been a number of sources encouraging people to give horse a chance. Gerard Marin in an Edmonton Examiner article said, "It's much tastier than beef and has much less fat. Young people today eat nothing but processed meals, kebabs and other rubbish - they don't know what they're missing."

Venture out of your comfort zone

Adventurous eater Derek Braun, explained his perceptions of the way Calgary has reacted to the scandal.

"People are just ignorant. That's all it boils down to," says Braun.

His motto: try everything at least once. In this way, he encouraged Calgarians to at least give horse a try.

"If you ask me, there are all sorts of additives in foods and I guarantee that if people knew about all the things going into their foods they wouldn't eat most foods now-a-days."

Braun said he thinks people are over reacting over one isolated incidence and that they shouldn't apply something that happened at the other end of the world to what's happening here.

Horse is safe to eat. It's nutritious and delicious. So, Calgary, quit complaining and give it a try.

kbrown@cjournal.ca