More than a year ago Congress quietly lifted a ban on horse meat inspection, causing speculation that horse slaughterhouses could be up and running in a month. The turnaround hasn't happened quite that quickly, but recent news shows that two slaughterhouses might be up and running in the next two months.
The New York Times reports that a horse slaughtering plant in New Mexico is set to open within the next few months, as the USDA is expected to approve inspection. In fact, a spokesman for the USDA said that "several" companies have asked for inspection of horses for slaughter. Horsemeat must be inspected by the USDA before being approved for human consumption.
Of course, all of this is happening while the horsemeat scandal slowly unfolds in Europe, where traces of equine DNA has been found in everything from Burger King burgers to Ikea meatballs.
In a recent AP article, Mary Clare Jalonick assures readers that "there just isn't enough horse meat in the U.S. for it to make sense for meatpackers to illegally mix it in, and U.S. meat inspections in plants and checks at the border would most likely catch any large-scale scams." Considering, however, that Oklahoma is set to be the first state to lift its ban on horse slaughter, and this news of an operational New Mexico slaughterhouse, perhaps we should be worried?
Advocates for this horsemeat movement, however, note that horsemeat isn't necessarily unsafe and is a slightly healthier alternative to beef. Back in 2011, even PETA somewhat supported the lift of the horsemeat inspection ban, noting that horses sent to Mexico or Canada to be slaughtered oftentimes suffered more. Even so, some of the biggest issues with the horsemeat scandal in the EU centers on the possible intrusion of horse drugs into the food system. How America will deal with potential horsemeat products has yet to be seen.