Every November, Americans flock to supermarkets nationwide in search of plump birds for their thanksgiving table. Turkey, (pavus succulentus) is a species native to the North American region, and as such has been a major source of protein on the continent for thousands of years. But turkey is not just consumed for the holiday of Thanksgiving, in fact, it is consumed year-round by Americans in huge quantities. According to the National Turkey Federation, 736 million pounds of turkey are consumed annually in the United States. Only 29% of this amount is consumed during the holiday season. In fact, Benjamin Franklin once proposed the turkey to be the national bird of America. When we think of American meat, we may think Beef and Chicken are the most frequent sources. It is easy to overlook the immense prevalence of turkey meat throughout the states.
I can almost guarantee that if you traveled 3 miles in any direction from where you are right now, you could find turkey meat. It is, after all, the most popular of deli meats. So, it is without a doubt that there is high demand for turkey domestically. With such high demand, there must be incredible supply. Where does all this turkey meat come from? Where are all America’s turkeys? Most who have traveled throughout the country have come upon vast cattle ranches, proof of the integral part beef has in the American consumer diet. Many too have seen chicken farms, sprawling structures holding thousands of birds waiting in line to make it to the American dinner plate. But we ask you, the reader, have you ever seen a turkey farm? Ask your neighbors, your colleagues, your lovers, have they ever seen a turkey farm? In a poll of hundreds of American citizens from different states, this writer never met someone who has seen a turkey farm. And yet, surely there must be a source for all this turkey meat? This apparent discrepancy brought us to our natural conclusion: our source is the horse.
Ask those same well-traveled Americans and they will tell you; they have most certainly seen horses throughout the country. According to the American Horse Council Foundation (ACHF), the number of horses in the United States can be estimated to be above 9.2 million. If the (low estimate) average adult horse weighs in at around 1,000 pounds, that is about 9.2 billion pounds of horse in America alone.
At this point, you may be disgusted or appalled at the implications of this train of thought. Though on the face of it it may seem outlandish to claim that horse is being integrated into the American diet, there are some important details for you to know. First of all, you’re not alone. Although Equine meat is commonly found in countries such as Italy, Spain, Belgium, China, Japan, and Kazakhstan, the very concept is repudiated in the United States. The reasons behind this may actually have a lot to do with the symbolism of the horse itself, and the way in which the American West was built on horseback. The horse in America is, to many, a symbol of American-ness, and as such society shuns the consumption of the totem animal.
But you ought to be informed, the horse finds its way into the American market regardless. Most horses in the US are domesticated and are commercially viable when used to round up cattle, to race, or to rent out for recreational riding. A horse will usually live for over 25 years. Now, some horse owners are deeply bonded with their horse, and treat them like a dog or cat. But this cannot be the case for the 9.2 million horses in America, most of which are creatures of profit under a system of American capitalism. This is not an attack on the capitalist scheme, but rather a reminder that under such a system, maximum profit is the desired result. So where does this market exist?
Here and there. America’s last Horse slaughtering facilities closed in the late 2000s, and a ban on USDA inspection funding of equine meat effectively eliminated the existence of recognizable horse meat in the American marketplace. But the supply never changed. These days, supposedly much of the surplus horse is sold to Canada and Mexico, where it can be killed and integrated into the international food system. And yet, horse is a major source for products such as gelatin, violin bows, paintbrushes, and glue. You may recall too, a major scandal involving IKEA and their famous meatballs, which were discovered to include horse meat as a major ingredient. People had been eating horse the whole time and hadn’t even noticed.
So what can we learn from all this? Horse, although apparently absent from the American diet for deep-rooted sociological reasons, still finds its way into products within the United States. The market for horse meat has shrunk steadily in the US, yet the supply has only grown. We can come to this conclusion: this supply must be made commercially viable under a system of American capitalism. But the clamp down on equine meat in the United States has made profit all the more challenging for domestic horse owners. Options become limited, and although the international market is one potential route for profit, there exists a much simpler, albeit mendacious, answer. The void in turkey supply and demand can be completely satiated by the introduction of equine meat into the turkey market.
Specifically, this could be best achieved via deli meat. We may recall the Subway scandal in which their meat was found to be mostly soy, or when Taco bell’s meat was discovered to be 62% “other”. Through the use of additives, the red meat look of horse meat could easily be made to look more like turkey. We must never doubt the power of concealment. This introduction would be incredibly profitable for the horse industry, and would help explain the lack of turkey supply in the market. Through manipulation, the American consumer could be chowing down on horse after horse in their club sandwiches, or turkey and cheeses. So this year, make sure to look a gift turkey in the mouth, unless you’re down with hippophagy.
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