Pearl Snaps

Stories of a cowgirl living life by her own lights


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Top Chef Canada to serve up horse meat

Top Chef Canada is set to air an episode tonight on Food Network Canada serving up horse meat.  The theme of the show is classic French cooking.  The announcement that horse meat would be used in cooking on the show has stirred up outrage and controversy.  A Facebook page, Boycott Top Chef – Protect the Horses, has even been created for viewers to voice their concerns and opinions.

Food Network Canada released a statement on their Facebook Page in response:

“Please be assured it is not our intention to offend our viewers. The challenge in this episode involves having the competitors create a truly authentic, traditional French menu. One of the most traditional French foods is horsemeat. Horsemeat is also considered a delicacy in many cultures around the world. While we understand that this content may not appeal to all viewers, Food Network Canada aims to engage a wide audience, embracing different food cultures in our programming.”

Though Canada plays a large part in the horse meat business, slaughtering over 90,000 horses a year, it is not widely consumed in the country.  Though it isn’t the most popular dish, it is still possible to purchase horse meat at some butcher shops and restaurants in Quebec.  Horse meat is considered very lean, low in fat and is popular in Japan, Brazil, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, but it is most popular in Belgium and France.

I for one am okay with all of this.  I don’t see the problem with serving up horse meat.  Just because we don’t consume horse meat widely in North America does not give us the right to say to another culture that what they are doing is immoral.  All of the anti-horse slaughter activists that have been protesting the airing of this show are being hypocritical and close-minded.  Though they don’t blatantly say it, I feel that they are clearly denigrating the French culture with their comments.  Whatever happened to cultural diversity and respect for others beliefs?  Guess it’s been thrown out the window with the rest  of their common sense.

Is horse an acceptable meat course?  Peter Smith, writer for Good Worldwide, LLC, stated that “Eating horse meat hasn’t always been a taboo in the United States. During World War II, it was sold as an alternative to meat rations, and, until at least 1954, a dedicated stall at Pike Place Market in Seattle sold horse meat.”  Maybe we need to look back at our own history to remember where we came from and also remind ourselves that just because we are Americans, it doesn’t give us the right to bash other people’s cultural practices, no matter how much we don’t like it.


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‘Meat Production & Politics’ broadcast takes a wrong turn

Yesterday a local Kentucky radio station, 89.3 FM WFPL Louisville broadcast a 1 hour special titled “Meat Production and Politics“.  The broadcast was supposed to be a discussion about where our meat comes from, and what impact the U.S. Farm Bill has on big and small meat producers.  The featured speakers were Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President, Dave Maples; Kentucky Beef Council Chair, Steve Downs; and Daniel Imhoff, author of ‘Food Fight’.  Though what seemed would be a fair and balanced discussion, soon turned into a “Pollan-ized” ‘Ag Bash’ Fest featuring mainly Daniel Imhoff.  Maples and Downs did their best to speak up for Kentucky’s beef industry, but it was quite a challenge to get a word in edgewise while Imhoff ranted about the evils of CAFOs and modern beef production.  I do not claim to be a meat science expert, so I will leave the addressing of the false claims of lack of slaughterhouse infrastructure to the meat experts like Dr. Chris Raines and Amy Sipes.  I can however address his claims about conventional beef production.

Feedlots are not evil, polluting, unhappy places for cattle.  In reality, feedlots are efficient facilities for raising beef cattle and allow for fewer natural resources (land, water, and feed) to be utilized to produce beef.  Cattle are not crowded into pens, instead they are given ample room to move around.  According to Dave Maples, the estimate is approximately 250 sq ft/animal.  Sometimes cattle may crowd together, but this is normal behavior for herd animals.  Feedlots are designed to keep cattle dry and manure is scraped on  a regular basis to keep pens clean.

Feedlots monitor environmental factors such as water quality, air quality, and land utilization and must follow strict regulations set up by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that govern concentrated animal feeding operations.  Many of the larger feedlots employ an environmental engineer that is solely responsible for monitoring these important environmental concerns to keep the feedlot in compliance with EPA.

Corn is not an unnatural diet for cattle.  Many people may be surprised to know that corn is actually a species of GRASS!  Cattle are able to utilize many different types of plants, including both forages and grains.  The majority of cattle in this country are finished on grains during the last 4-6 months of their lives.  However, it is often forgotten that all cattle spend nearly 2/3 of their life on pasture, eating grass, before heading to the feedlot.  Though many anti-conventional ag proponents would lead you to believe that cattle on feedlots are force fed only corn diets, this is simply not the case.  Instead these diets consist of a carefully scientifically formulated combination of both grains and forages that is determined by a professional nutritionist to ensure a well-balanced diet that meets all of the animal’s nutritional needs.  Feeding cattle grain has been in practice for 0ver 200 years.  Grain has long been a source of nutritious, energy-rich feed that is easily stored.  This ensures a safe and consistent supply of feed for cattle even during times like winter when pasture forages are unavailable.

Whether you choose to eat conventionally raised, grain-fed, grass-fed, or organic beef doesn’t matter to me.  All are great options and we are fortunate in this country to have the freedom to choose.  Self-proclaimed food and agriculture experts such as Daniel Imhoff, would have you believe that grass-fed and organic is the only way and that conventional methods are wrong.  I however believe that there is always more than one way to do something, which is the case when raising cattle.  Before believing outlandish claims such as those made by Imhoff, do yourself a favor and go to the source to find out the truth:  the farmer, rancher, or meat processor that helped to produce the beef on your plate.

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