You might think it were the work of the Hamburglar, or Chick-fil-A’s renegade cows that plead for us to “Eat Mor Chikin.”
This past January, a food scandal unfurled when, during a routine check of a few hamburger patties in Ireland, one burger was found to contain nearly 30 percent horse meat. Since then, horse meat has been found impersonating (or, one might say, im-cow-ating) beef in several European countries including Britain, France, Germany and Sweden. Some of the retailers found to be serving up Seabiscuit include Burger King, IKEA and Taco Bell.
Though U.S. officials say contamination of our meat supply is unlikely, it prompted us to wonder (fraudulent activity aside): Seriously, what’s wrong with eating horse meat? (Cows are cute, too!) And, more importantly: could it be better for you than beef? It sure seems leaner. If it were, the horse meat industry could easily market it as the other red meat.
Believe it or not, there is a strong, though small, push for horse meat. Maybe eating Mister Ed is still taboo here, but it’s common in countries like Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. In Japan, you can even order it as sushi (Of course, you can also buy used underwear from vending machines there, so maybe it’s not the best model for sensible choices).
Still, in 2007 Gordon Ramsay made headlines when he admitted to eating horse, and encouraging his fellow Brits to give it a try. He told The Telegraph that “it is healthy… packed with protein… with lots of iron and half the fat of beef, and far more omega-3…fatty acids.” As for the taste, he describes it as "slightly gamey." Well, what isn’t?
We ran a nutrition comparison on NutritionData.com between horse meat and top sirloin—an extra lean cut of beef—to see how the two stack up.
Horse (4 oz.): 150 calories, 5 grams fat, 1.75 grams saturated fat, 59 mg cholesterol, 408 mg omega-3s, 24 grams protein, 24% iron, and 57 % B12
Top Sirloin Beef (4 oz): 236 calories, 12 grams of fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 68 mg omega-3s, 32 grams protein, 12 percent iron, and 32 percent B12
And the winner by a longshot is… horse meat! It’s probably cheaper, too. And to think that the people being fed the bait-and-switch could actually be getting nutritional benefits out of it.
Though there are currently no operational horse slaughterhouses in the U.S., one is set to open in New Mexico very soon. Making horses into meat became illegal in 2006, but President Obama reauthorized it in 2011. Which means, if you don’t live in Oklahoma, California and Mississippi—here the sale of horse meat for human consumption is banned—you may soon be able to buy yourself some of that other red meat. Otherwise, you’ll just have to wait until your next visit to Japan.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.