I enjoyed the one time I ate roast horse meat in Britain. It was at a dinner in Dorset and our hosts, who ate horse regularly, told us it was easy to buy from a meat van in the market. It was sold from under the counter, so as not to cause offence.
I say “the one time”, because I may have eaten it unwittingly since. Only recently I was tempted to buy some supermarket burgers because they looked incredibly lean for the price. News of the supermarket steed-burger gives rise to suspicion. Adulteration with a dark, handsome flesh like horse is easy subterfuge.
But there is no reason not to eat horse meat. It is abundant, and good for you. Steak tartare is traditionally recommended for invalids due to its supposed purity. Horses are fussy eaters; unlike cows they eat only grain and grass and could not be persuaded to eat meat and bone-meal.
The meat contains little fat (you need to “lard” it or it will dry out in the oven) and there are few welfare issues: those much-loved British and Irish horses live well until they come last in the 2.30 at Chepstow one too many times. The horse meat “faux filet” from Britain, so appreciated by the French, is likely to be thoroughbred, not moorland pony.
Recently, at a busy expo in Turin dedicated to the Slow Food movement, I stopped late in the afternoon to eat at one of the few outlets that had not run out of food. All that was on offer was raw chopped meat, served with salt and extra virgin olive oil. I liked it and presumed it was beef but a friend said, “Oh, you ate cavallo – Ligurian style.” Horse meat, of course.
The debate over whether to eat it is proof that we spoil our horses and are spoilt for choice.
Horse is inferior to properly matured beef, being fine grained and slightly mushy, but that does not mean we should not eat it. It should not be hidden in burgers, but put out there to test the increasingly eclectic tastes of British food lovers.