Happy Thanksgiving Recovery Day

By Patty Wilber

It is a good bet that a lot of us ate turkey (and stuffing and pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes and some other kind of pie and bread and maybe yams or cranberries and yet another other flavor of pie and brussel sprouts) yesterday. Today we may be recovering.


It is probably the case that almost no one ate horse meat.


Well, I thought I saw an article somewhere that there was an increased demand for horse meat for Thanksgiving in Mexico.

Ok, Ok, there is a lot wrong with that statement, so maybe I dreamt it?

1) Who eats horse for Thanksgiving?  The Science Guy came up with a list of items the Pilgrims probably ate, and the red meat was seal and venison.  No horse. In fact, the first Thanksgiving (as we were taught in grade school) was in 1621 and the first horses didn’t even get over there on the East Coast until the 1630’s, so even if they had a hankering for horse, it wasn’t happening.

(In the West, however, horses came with Cortez in 1519, and by 1609, they were embedded in Native American culture (Singer, Canadian Geographic)), but hey the West wasn’t having a Pilgrim Thanksgiving then anyway, because the Pilgrim Thanksgiving wasn’t invented yet and even after it was invented it took a while to migrate west because it took a while for the U.S. to expand west.  So does that mean we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving in NM until 1850 when NM became a U.S. Territory?

Oh no!  Just Google “First Thanksgiving in NM” and slide on down that rabbit hole.  1598, Don Juan Onate, in present day El Paso, which wasn’t Texas yet (who claims the first Thanksgiving) in 1598, so that makes it NM? (who also claims the same first Thanksgiving)??? I am sticking with the 1621 Pilgrim version.

2) Hello!  Thanksgiving (The Pilgrim one) is a uniquely American Holiday, so why would Mexicans in Mexico be celebrating an American holiday?  With horse meat?   

But it got me thinking about eating horse meat.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Statistics Division, about 750, 000 tons of horse meat was produced world wide between 2011 and 2012 with the top producer being China (200,000 tons) and third place Mexico (~80.000 tons).

(The U.S. produced ~12 MILLION tons of beef during the same time period and 5th place Argentia produced ~2.5 MILLION tons).

Horse meat production by region showed Asia with  44.6% of the market, the Americas 31.1%, Europe 18.3%, Oceania 3.8% and Africa 2.2%.

Clearly, horse (and ass and mule, though not included in my stats) meat is consumed world wide, so why do American’s eschew it?

It is supposed to be tasty and compared to beef, and healthier.

.5oz/100g Serving Horse Meat Fat Trimmed Bottom Sirloin
Calories: 133 165
Total Fat: 5g 9g
Iron: 3.8 mg 1.5mg
B12 3.0 mcg 1.1 mcg
Protein 21.4 g 20.6 g

Check out this link for a neat visual comparisonhttp://visual.ly/beef-versus-horse

Back when food was not so abundant, however, the properties of horse made it a worse food than beef (according to the beef vs. horse link, and the table above).  Cattle are more efficient at converting feed to meat than horses (due to their ruminant digestive system vs. hind gut fermentation in horses) and provide more calories and fat per pound.

In the U.S., during WWII, horse meat was unrationed and an alternative to rationed beef.  In the 40’s and 50’s horse meat could be purchased on the black market from pet food stores (but then eaten by people) for low prices.  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/why-dont-we-eat-horses/

But today in the U.S. we can’t buy horse meat in a standard grocery because…?

  • It’s a meat of pagans, so Pope Gregory III banned  it in 730. How that affects the U.S. over the rest of the world, I am not exactly sure, and the U.S. is not overwhelmingly Catholic (23.9% as of 2014 according to the Pew Forum). Also, a fair amount of horse IS consumed in Italy (87.8% Catholic in 2006, Wikipedia).
  • It is non Kosher for Jews (non-ruminant, non cloven hooves). Um, not like the U.S, is overwhelmingly Jewish (1.7%), either, or that all Jews in the U.S. are Kosher.
  • Other not-big-in-the-US religions ban it, too.  Check out wikipedia on horse meat.
  • Back in the day, when horses provided most of the transportation, they were worth more as working beasts than as food. Today we drive cars a lot, and horses are super cheap at the killer auctions.  Ok.  I know.  Just saying they are cheap now and cattle are so NOT cheap.
  • Horses are less efficient at converting feed to food (as per above) compared to cows. (But they are really cheap, so cost per pound per $ input actually makes horse meat more economical than beef today. Pretty sure.)
  • Horses are a higher form of life, like dogs, and we don’t eat dogs. (Dog meat does not appear as a commodity on the FAO site in case anyone was wondering, at least not under livestock.)
  • Horses won the west.  You just can’t eat Silver or Trigger.
  • Check this site out for more of the same.  http://mentalfloss.com/article/49149/why-did-eating-horsemeat-become-taboo

Jim and I are going to France in 2016, so it think I will try horse steak then. In the mean time, traditional turkey (and three kinds of pie) was fabulous for Thanksgiving 2014!

The family in California!!

The family in California!!



About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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4 Responses to Happy Thanksgiving Recovery Day

  1. Marilyn says:

    Heh. Well, my Dad wanted to go out to eat, instead of me cooking, so he and Harry had all the usual trimmings. Since I can’t do any grains or potatoes or sugar or lactose, I had a steak, and brought small containers of spinach au gratin and mock potatoes. The steak was excellent. So was my mock cheese cake. The Houndly Trio had Cornish Game Hens, raw. Everyone was STUFFED.

    I am not sure I would try horse.Like you say, y’don’t eat Trigger or Silver. Or Lassie, or Rin Tin Tin, for that matter. I did try squid and eel in Spain. And had to laugh like crazy when the Cajun members of our party turned green at the thought of eating those when Cajuns eat crawfish.

    Fascinating on the whys and wherefores of horse meat.

    • Patty says:

      I thought the not eating horse was interesting too–the more things I looked up the more interesting it became!!

      • Marilyn says:

        Oh, the great research wandering. You start out to look up one thing, which leads to another, which leads to another, and before you know it, you’ve wasted a whole day. Or more. Or… maybe not wasted, since you learned all those new and neat things. Just… didn’t get done what you planned to get done!

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