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No Freedom of Choice in What You Eat?-Come On Man!

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Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Baton Rouge, Louisiana



 Louisiana has been called the culinary Mecca of America.  Folks in this part of the country can take just about anything edible and make it, not just good, but quite exceptional.  And when we say anything, we mean anything.  There is virtually no limit to what a Cajun will put in a gumbo.  So when one of our own politicians starts talking about banning anything we want to eat, “them’s fightin’ words.”Â  But that’s what one of Louisiana’s U.S. senators wants to do.

Democrat Mary Landrieu has for years led a national fight to ban the sale of horsemeat for consumption in the U.S.  Now I’ll admit that most of us do not regularly run down to our local supermarket to check on whether a fresh shipment of horsemeat has arrived.  But I’m not all that enamored by eating nutria, a large rat, that is regularly publicized as a tasty dish by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.  So, to each his own.

Landrieu is pushing for an outright ban on both the slaughter and the export of slaughter horses.  She was on the forefront of the initial fight in 2006, when congress banned the use of federal funds by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to inspect the slaughter of horses at any meat processing plant in the country. Under the law, any plant that is not inspected by this federal agency is prohibited from shipping horsemeat across state lines.  So, no inspection, no sales, and the horse slaughter market was shut down.

Is there a market for U.S. horsemeat?  Yes, and it’s big time in a number of countries.  “Carne di Cavallo,” can be bought in most butcher shops in Italy.  In Sweden, horsemeat is so popular that it outsells lamb and mutton combined.  In every European country you will find horsemeat to be quite popular. In France, the mother lode of food delicacies, they even have a horsemeat butcher’s organization called Federation de la Boucherie Hippophagique. It’s estimated that 700,000 tons of horsemeat are consumed annually worldwide. And for good reason.

As Gary Picariello writes in Yahoo News, “a typical filet of horsemeat is similar to that of beef. The meat is leaner, slightly sweeter in taste, with a flavor somewhat between that of beef and venison. Good horsemeat is very tender, but it can also be slightly tougher than comparable cuts of beef. Horsemeat is higher in protein and lower in fat. The most popular cuts of horsemeat come from the hindquarters: tenderloin, sirloin, fillet steak, rump steak and rib. Less tender cuts are ground.”

Here’s what restaurateur Jonathan Birdsall told me about possible horsemeat demand in the U.S.  “I’ll bet I could name half a dozen American chefs chomping at the bit to do things to horse back fat or loins that’d show off a delicacy few of us probably never suspected Mr. Ed to be capable of. Braised on a nice bed of hay, maybe, with a few roasted finger-length carrots.”Â  Hmmm.  Think it’s worth a try?

Like I said, we eat about anything down here in Bayou Country.  I wrote a cook book some years ago (available at www.the LisburnPress.com)  that includes such delicacies as my “world famous” squirrel stew, venison goulash, possum and chestnuts, rabbit in sour cream,  and Louisiana Governor Jimmy Davis’s favorite, fried coon file’.

I was traveling through Cajun country a few years ago, and stopped at a rural general store for a cup of coffee.  An old fellow was on the porch cooking up a pot of something that smelled good.  “Whatcha’ cookin’?” I asked.  “Got me a gumbo,” he replied.  I asked what kind of gumbo, and he told me, “an owl gumbo.”Â  When I asked him what an owl gumbo tasted like, he smiled and said, “Oh, about like a hawk gumbo.”

Seeing that our locals regularly eat alligator sauce picquante, and add to a stew or gumbo just about anything else that flies or crawls, it’s hard for many of us to get too worked up over a little horsemeat.   I know that many have a special affection for the majestic horse.  But all horses eventually have to be disposed of. And the same horses that would be slaughtered in the U.S. under strict guidelines are now being shipped to other countries and both treated and killed in far more cruel ways.

It’s hard to figure why a Louisiana senator has such a beef with letting someone chose to eat horsemeat.  Isn’t it really a freedom of choice issue?  She apparently has no problem with eating Porky Pig, Donald Duck, and Bambi.  So what’s the big deal about eating Trigger and Mr. Ed?

Since we have a French background here in Louisiana, could the politicians in Washington be dangerously close to inciting another revolution by telling what we can or cannot eat?  Instead a big fuss being made over, “Let us eat cake,” the new battle cry could well be, “Let us eat horse.”


 “Food shortages in the United States are so acute that in some states we are already eating horsemeat, and in Oklahoma a state official urges that we eat crows, which he says, taste like roast duck.”

Clarence Birdseye, American Magazine (July 1943)

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown


Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownla.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.





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