Why It's Almost Impossible To Find Horse Meat In The U.S.

You won't find a horse tenderloin or tartare on the regular menu in any U.S. restaurant. Horse steak or ground horse patties cannot be found next to the beef and pork in your grocer's meat section. Why is horse meat not for sale in the United States? After all, it's not illegal to eat (via The Takeout). If you want to slaughter a horse, turn it into steaks, sashimi, or sausage, and serve it to friends and family, that's your business. 

Here's the problem: Any meat sold in the United States must be inspected (via USDA), and the federal government has zero budget for inspections of horse carcasses. The issue comes up for debate every once in a while, but the inspection ban remains in place for 2020 (via the Humane Society). Whether or not the legal barrier to mass production of horse meat ever gets lifted, the psychological barrier to eating our friend, Flicka, seems like it won't budge. 

The acclaimed Cure restaurant in Pittsburgh, which has since closed for unrelated reasons, hosted Canadian chefs who put "Le Cheval" on the menu for one night (via Vice). "Le Cheval" translates to "horse," of course – in this case, horse tartare served with cured egg yolk and black garlic aioli. Online commenters heaped shame on the restaurant, accusing it of serving therapy animals for dinner. "You putting Hipster Tartare on the menu next?" someone commented on the defunct restaurant's now-deleted Facebook page.

Horse meat tastes good and is good for you, but ...

People love horses. There may not be as many horse owners as dog owners in the U.S., but horses are every bit the companion animal dogs are, if not more so. After all, we can ride horses! Americans did have brief flirtations with horse cuisine when the automobile replaced the horse-drawn carriage and when beef was scarce during World War II (via The Atlantic). But the idea never stuck. Besides people's fondness for horses, their meat was considered at best a poor substitute for beef.

People who have eaten horse meat say it's actually pretty good. "It's beef but darker, more iodine-y," Canadian food critic Chris Nuttall-Smith told The Takeout. "It's got a rich and beautiful flavor, whether served raw or as a tenderloin. It's delicious." Horse meat is also healthy, with twice as much iron as beef and almost as much omega-3 fatty acids as farmed salmon.

Still, fans of My Little Pony and Seabiscuit aren't biting and probably never will. Horses are intelligent, social animals that can apparently read people's emotions (via the Independent). Surely, we humans wouldn't seriously consider slaughtering and consuming these majestic beasts? That sounds persuasive, except much the same can be said about pigs (via HuffPost). Good for horses, then, that they don't taste like bacon.