Four months after Chef Peter McAndrew made the controversial announcement that he was putting horse meat on the menu at his South Philadelphia restaurant, McAndrew has had a change of heart.
“I’m not going to do it,” McAndrew said. “I got a lot of letters from animal activists and it really made me think.”
McAndrew, owner of BYOB Monsu Restaurant located at 9th and Christian Streets, says he was flooded with emails, videos, and letters from animal rights activists shortly after we published the story of his horse meat announcement in February. He says a majority of the emails included death threats and others contained graphic images of horses being killed at slaughter houses in other countries and at auctions where the conditions were unsanitary.
McAndrew says it was a wakeup call for him.
“I was aware that you have to get the meat from a reputable source but what I learned is that it takes a longer time to kill a horse because they are much smarter than other animals,” said McAndrew. “I saw a video where they had to use an electric bolt three times just to put one horse down. Any other animal would have gone down the first time.”
The meat is described as sweet-tasting and tender, similar to veal, beef or deer. In some cases, consumers say it’s hard to tell the difference. McAndrew planned to blend the delicacy into a few soups and hor d'oeuvres to help his customers warm up to the idea of eating something so unique at his restaurant known for its Italian cuisine.
Animal rights activists are outraged at the idea that horse meat could one day be served in your local restaurant. If that wasn't enough to sway McAndrew, a visit from Food and Drug Administration officials did. He says they performed inspections at all five of his Philadelphia-area restaurants last month.
“Their initial concern was to make sure that I wasn’t selling horse meat out of a back door alley somewhere which happens quite often. They just said ‘I would stay away from it if I were you’. I felt like I had the FBI of the food world on me. If they say don’t do something then I am not going to do it,” McAndrew told NBC10.com.
Some 160,000 horses are shipped from America to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered each year. Currently, there are no slaughter houses in the United States, the last one closed in Illinois in 2007, according to the Associated Press. President Obama, however, re-authorized funds for horse slaughter house inspections in 2011. A handful of businesses around the country are now seeking permission to open plants, according to NBC News.
Last month, Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, proposed a bill to keep horses from becoming a part of your food supply.
“Part of our bill does away with slaughtering here in the United States for human consumption or the transport out of the United States for the same purpose,” Meehan said. “Horses are routinely treated with drugs over the course of their lifetimes that are toxic to humans if ingested.”
Though McAndrew has tabled the idea, he insists he will continue to introduce unique dishes to help his customers broaden their palate.
“America is a cultural melting pot; you have to have a broad view of things. The Vietnamese have a taste for dog, if I was there I would eat it,” said McAndrew.