The market for U.S. horses processed into food hit a bump earlier this month, when shipments from Mexican and Canadian horse slaughter plants were halted by the European Union. Sue Wallis, with the International Equine Business Association (based in the U.S.), tells Brownfield it was an eye-opening incident and would have had troubling consequences had the ban not been quickly lifted.
“Within three months, we would have had some 48,000 head of horses with nowhere to go. That is, in fact, more horses than the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) is supporting on U.S. taxpayer horses today,” says Wallis.
In Mid-October, E. U. officials notified plants in Mexico and Canada that they were ineligible to import horse meat to the E.U. that was produced from U.S. horses unless they could prove the animals had been in the countries where the plants were located for a minimum of 90 days. The original shipment that raised the concern of a buyer in France, she says, had either been mislabeled or the label was mis-read.
Wallis is a leader in reestablishing domestic horse slaughter in the U.S. and is serving as a consultant for a plant being retrofitted in Rockville, Missouri (in Southwest Missouri).
Wallis says they’ve been told by USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) officials that the agency is validating the science on drug testing for horse meat in the U.S. and those grants of inspection should be ready by the end of this year. Wallis says she’s confident the Missouri plant will open in 2013 and will restart horse processing in this country.