At the turn of the twenty-first century there were only three horse slaughterhouses operating in the U.S., all foreign-owned, with all the meat going to Europe and Japan. In 2007, the last of them closed, and U.S.D.A. inspections were struck from the federal budget, effectively banning domestic slaughter. Over the next five years, hundreds of thousands of live horses left America to be slaughtered in Canada and Mexico, under conditions advocates of domestic slaughter and animal-rights groups alike deplored. In spite of laws against the practice, a report by ProPublica suggested that some of them might have been wild horses captured by the Bureau of Land Management in round-ups and sold to "kill buyers"; others came from racetracks and were full of steroids, anti- inflammatories, and other medications prohibited in food animals.
In 2012, funding for U.S.D.A. inspection was restored, and various companies have announced plans to open slaughterhouses. While the majority of the market will likely be foreign, boosters are making a direct appeal to adventurous American foodies, on the basis of the other exotic foods they have accepted. "The Promise of Cheval," a document recently produced by the International Equine Business Association, asks, "In a country where common gastronomic choices include everything from baby lambs and suckling pigs to grasshopper tacos and alligator tails, why can you not find the horse steak that was available on the menu of the Harvard dining room in the 1990s?" (The Faculty Club served it, with mushroom sauce and vegetables.) It goes on to describe a cheap, sweet, red meat, just out of reach. "When our Canadian neighbors are dining on delightful meals of Cheval au Porto, where is the same lean, tender dish to tempt our palates?" When I talked to Sue Wallis, a state legislator in Wyoming who is trying to open a slaughterhouse in Missouri, she said, "There's great action going on with artisanal meats and butchery, and I think cheval would be interesting to those folks." Wallis is also a raw-milk advocate. Her favorite, of course, is raw horse milk, which she has tried courtesy of an Amish farmer who sells it to the cosmetics industry but drinks it with his family.
The history of accidental horse-eating is long. Simmonds, in "The Curiosities of Food," reported that no one in the English knackers' yards could account for the hearts and tongues, and suggested that the "ox-tongues" sold as Russian imports might be equine instead. Upton Sinclair put it on par with the other horrors depicted in "The Jungle," revealing that, until public outrage temporarily put a stop to it, the packers, in addition to all their other crimes against purse and palate, were also slaughtering and tinning horses. At the turn of the last century, the New York Times reported frequently on a German butcher named Henry Bosse, "of horse-bologna sausage fame," who operated a horse slaughterhouse beside the race track in Maspeth, Long Island, where he "transform[ed] decrepit quadrupeds into odiferous bologna sausages" for shipment to Belgium and Germany. Sometimes, the paper alleged, "after the horse meat was shipped to Europe and manufactured into sausage it was resent to this country and sold as some of the famous brands."
Hugue Dufour came by his "horse-bologna-sausage fame" differentlyby openly appealing to the outré tastes of foodies. Dufour, who is Canadian, grew up on a working farm; sometimes the family slaughtered and ate their horses. Before coming to New York, he worked for Martin Picard at Au Pied du Cochon, in Montreal. The restaurant is known for its hedonistic foie gras and whole-animal frenzies: Animal plus Incanto. In an idiosyncratic homemade cookbook, "Au Pied de Cochon Sugar Shack," Picard chronicles a sugaring season at a maple orchard forty-five minutes outside of town, where he has a second restaurant. Among photographs of syrup-immersed bacchantes, and detailed instructions on how to make squirrel sushi, he writes, "I LOVE carcasses! I like tearing them apart and picking them clean with my fingers and I don't feel the slightest bit shy about doing it in public."
Excerpted from Anything That Moves by Dana Goodyear. Copyright © 2013 by Dana Goodyear. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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