Eat 'Mr. Ed'? Horse meat might be worth another look

EUGENE, Ore. - First horse meat showed up in beef at a Burger King in Ireland.

Then Ikea reported horse meat was found in Swedish meatballs in Europe.

U.S. residents react with disgust, but for a lot of the world, eating horse meat isn't that unusual. The furor overseas appears more about mislabeling the meat than the meat itself.

So why is there a stigma about horse meat in the United States?

"People think of horses as more friendly than they do as a farm animal, so I think that's going to be a big problem at least in this country," said Dr. Skye Weintraub, a physician and nutritionist. "People are not going to find that appetizing."

Nicole King raises horses on a ranch outside Eugene. She loves the animals but said there should be a market for horse meat.

"I raise them and I love them, but I also see the other side of the picture," King said. "I see the practical side of the need for an outlet."

King said not all horses are sweet, social and majestic. Unruly and dangerous horses that are usually put down - and the meat goes to waste. With many people going hungry in Oregon, she wonders why that horse meat can't be put to good use as a food source.

"I think people love horses so much they don't want to consume what we're so connected to, and I understand that," King said, "but I also see and understand the need that if people are hungry, they must eat."

And while many Americans view horses as pets, the meat is popular in other countries.

"I imagine it's very lean," Weintraub said. "It's pretty easily accessible and it's not a rare animal, and for a lot of countries it's probably difficult to get adequate protein."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture hasn't inspected horse meat since 2007, so it can't be sold in the U.S.

But a New Mexico meat company has asked for that to change and said the USDA could grant them an inspection in as little as two months.