Scientific American in the late 1800s: eating horse flesh is good for the economy

At the Smithsonian's Smart News blog, a fun post looking at historic debates in America's science media about whether it's okay to eat horse meat, with links to some Scientific American articles from the 1860s and 1870s.

One such article published in 1875, "Shall We Eat The Horse?," argues that "in not utilizing horse flesh as food, we are throwing away a valuable and palatable meat, of which there is sufficient quantity largely to augment our existing aggregate food supply. Supposing that the horse came into use here as food, it can be easily shown that the absolute wealth in the country would thereby be materially increased."

A decade later, SciAm published this piece screengrabbed above, on the shifting cultural norms that made eating horse totally not cool.


    1. I think it’s fair to say that the current outrage is a fusion of “this is not safe,” and “the supplier lied about what kind of meat it was,” amplified many times because “OMG yuck, eating horses.”

      1. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d happily eat horse.  I’ve been curious, and I don’t really know of anyplace nearby that serves it, nor do I know of any butcher shops that claim to have it.

  1. i think the uproar is in the “not knowing,” rather than the horse meat itself…

    while living in china, i had the opportunity to eat horse and dog on several occasions.  i had both prepared various ways and it was always delicious.  (cold dog tasted like roast beef to me).  i also enjoyed rabbit head, goose tongue, duck neck, chicken feet, pig ear, drunk shirmp, camel kabobs, and many other amazing and delicious items.  i was never once “sick,” from anything i ate and was more often than naught, amazed at how delicious and well-prepared the items were, regardless of what stigma one might attach to such items in the west. 

  2. It’s the economy, stupid. This is all a part of the “Chained CPI” conspiracy. If you can afford to eat horse, you’re no worse off than someone who can afford steak. If you can afford to eat dog, you’re no worse off than someone who can afford horse. If you can afford to eat rat…

  3. I don’t have a problem with eating horse meat. Good flavour, texture a little coarser than beef.

    I do have a problem with eating dodgy unspecified meat from an unknown animal in an unknown state of health.

    I’m off to the local butcher, who either knows the name of the animal, or at least the name of the farmer who grew it.

  4. I just ponied up for raw horse again last week – it was delicious.

    The day that American (and its cultural ab-norms) becomes the arbiter of what a healthy diet is for the rest of the world will be a sad day indeed.

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