No Need to Fear the Horse Meat Burger

Today, the Oklahoman (the largest newspaper in the state), ran an editorial I wrote on the European horse meat scandal.  I also touched on the consequences of the end of horse slaughter in the US.  Here are a few snippets:

An expanding European horse meat scandal has left many Americans wondering whether the same could happen here. Americans are unlikely to find a horse burger. Before celebrating, it might do some good to learn why.

Because horse slaughter ended in the US in 2007.  The consequences?

Unable to find a home for aged or crippled horses, ranchers faced high prices for euthanasia and disposal. Many horses were abandoned and left to starve. Investigations into horse abuse, for example, increased 60 percent in Colorado following slaughter cessation. Our research suggests that slaughter cessation caused a 36 percent drop in horse prices at a major Oklahoma auction and resulted in losses of $4 million per year in the yearling quarter horse market.


Americans are unlikely to find horse meat on their plate because we no longer produce any. It's possible that mislabeled products could be imported, but about 90 percent of the beef eaten by Americans is homegrown. If mislabeled products were found here, the answer wouldn't be, as we've seen, to ban horse slaughter. However much we are culturally predisposed to abhor eating horse, the reality is that it's safe and perfectly tasty. Just ask the French


. . . if a food retailer lies, there are legal remedies. The mere knowledge of liability, not to mention lost reputation, incentivizes truth telling. More vigilance might have stopped the faux beef sellers in Europe. But no government can prevent us from all harm. Nor should we want it to. Vigilance is costly and our governments are already doing too much.

in conclusion

The lesson from these equine scandals isn't necessarily that the government should have been doing more. Rather, politicians should learn what every good horse intuitively knows: Look before you leap.