Country music legend Willie Nelson wrote last year in an opinion piece saying that, We ride horses in America, we don't eat them.
Not yet anyway.
But among the trends that seems to be gaining momentum heading into 2012 is eating horse meat. It all started over the likelihood that horse slaughter will return to the U.S. early in the next year since Congress changed federal funding to permit horse slaughterhouses in America after a five year ban.
It's not that Americans ate horse meat before. Most of the meat from U.S. processing plants -- previously at $65 million industry -- was fed to zoo animals because it is high in protein and low in fat, and exported to Asia and Europe where many see horse meat as a delicacy. But now that the controversy on horse slaughter has heated back up again in the U.S. upon the change from Congress which funds USDA inspection of horse meat plants, some in the country have started talking seriously about eating horse meat.
Perhaps we shouldn't just export horse meat and feed it to zoo animals, some say.
Consider a column from Josh Ozersky at Time.com, the online publication of Time Magazine. Writing in the Taste of America column, Ozersky wrote this week a piece titled The Case for Eating Horse Meat. The James Beard Award-winning food writer and author of The Hamburger: A History, Ozersky makes the case that Americans should reconsider their stance on horse meat.
In a country where Funyuns, bug tacos and cayenne-flavored purgatives are all considered perfectly acceptable, we have never gotten over our national revulsion against horse meat, he writes. Maybe we should.
He's got a point. We find it perfectly acceptable in America that millions shove down tens of thousands of pounds of fast food and junk food daily, but we think it's wrong to eat horse meat. We'll eat cows by the millions, but not horses, despite the fact that the meat is said to be quite lean and healthy -- better than beef, and better than pork.
It would also be relatively inexpensive compared to say filet mignon, allowing poor people who can't afford enough decent protein another option.
...Because horse meat is unpopular, it will be cheaper, and the poorest Americans could eat fresh meat more frequently, Ozersky writes.
It's true what Willie Nelson said. Horses are for riding. But most horses slaughtered find their fate in old age. Older horse meat tastes best, apparently, and older horses are also best for slaughter because they have no other higher economic value use, like younger horses.
It's also true that horses are among the most beautiful and beloved animals in the world, particularly in this country. War Horse can bring a hundreds in a theater to tears, after all. So could Seabiscuit.
But horse meat apparently tastes good, and is good for you.
Horse is delicious, says David McMillan, a chef, according to Time.com. It's like health food compared to beef! It makes you a strong lover, too.
Nobody ever called pork an aphrodisiac. Not that I've heard, anyway. A little heavy on the fat side, perhaps.
So while the focus on horse slaughter returning to the U.S. has been on that very fact -- that horse slaughter is wrong because horses are more like pets than dinner table commodities -- the expectations have been that of the meat processed in America when plants open in the coming year will be exported to other countries or fed to zoo animals. A new story line is now emerging, however.
It's a question that begs for 2012: Why don't we eat horse meat in America?
The answer from many seems to be clear: Maybe we should.
Sure, horses are for riding. But maybe in America horses are also fit for the dinner table.