Why Are Americans Squeamish About Horse Meat?: Page 2

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Horse meat, ready for the grill.
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The United States has always attracted immigrants who come to eat more luxurious food, which often means meat, according to Amy Bentley, associate professor of food studies at New York University-Steinhardt.

"Because it's been such a wealthy and abundant country, we can chose what foods we eat," Bentley said. "We chose not to consume all parts of animal, and not eating horse has always been one of our choices."

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Bentley said Americans have strong historic ties to Great Britain, which prizes horses.

"We don't like to eat our pets and Americans anthropomorphize their pets," Bentley said. "We are close to horses in a way we aren't to pigs or cows and goats."

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There may be a more practical reason why early Americans didn't eat horses. They didn't taste too good, according to Martha Carlin, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Carlin notes that horses were commonly used as both transportation and to pull farm equipment. That means they were more valuable as beasts of burden than sources of food. Horses also have relatively long lifespans compared to a pig or sheep, for example.

"If you had a horse and worked it for 15 or 20 years and then if you slaughtered it, its meat would probably be pretty tough," Carlin said.

Carlin said the tradition of eating horse in France, Belgium and Switzerland never made it to the new world. She tried a sample once at a friend's home in Switzerland.

"It tastes like a quite good beefsteak," she said.