Top Chef trots into taboo territory
May 16th, 2011
11:15 AM ET
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Producers of the competitive culinary TV show Top Chef Canada galloped headlong into an internet outcry after news spread about an upcoming episode's focus on horse meat as an ingredient. In the challenge, scheduled to air on May 16th on Food Network Canada, contestants were required to cook traditional French dishes, including both foie gras (also a controversially-obtained food) and horse.

Protesters took to the show's Facebook page after promos for the episode aired, flooding the comments with mentions of Top Chef boycotts, links to anti-horse meat websites and advice on how to contact the show's advertisers. A specifically targeted Facebook group called "Boycott Top Chef – Protect the Horses" was swiftly established as a central location to share resources including educational material and contact information for the show's advertisers and the network's executives.

Food Network Canada has issued a statement saying, "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."

Horse meat is a staple in the cuisine of countries such as France, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan, China and parts of Canada, and is praised for its leanness and sweetness. In the United States, activists have argued that wild mustangs, which are seen by some as an invasive species, would be a cheap, viable source of food for the hungry.

Protesters, however, argue that not only is eating horse meat a moral taboo on par with the consumption of dogs and cats - it's also insufficiently regulated in Canada. The equipment used to slaughter the animals is designed for cows, rather than horses, which, they argue, renders the process inhumane. Additionally, the horses are often former pets or racers and may have at some point consumed drugs that are not approved for human use.

While horse meat is not an especially predominant ingredient in Canadian cuisine, and the majority of the meat processed in the country is exported internationally, it can be found for sale in supermarkets and at butcher shops.

An Eatocracy poll from earlier this year indicates that a substantial potion of the population expects to see a shift in perception toward horse meat consumption in the United States.

Do you think Americans will ever accept horse meat as part of their diet?

– No way. Never. 34.82%
– Only if there is no other option and we run out of other food sources 13.71%
– People don't really care that much what they put in their mouths, so yes 5.55%
– Possibly, but only after its health benefits are really proven 3.47%
– It'll take time, but why not? 14.3%
– It would be a huge success now if it were legal 4.11%
– People might try it as a novelty, but not as a staple - it'll always have a bit of a taboo 13.73%
– Maybe some food freaks will consider it a delicacy, but most people won't touch it 9.28%
– Other (please share below) 1.05%

Previously – Wild horse on the menu? and Would you eat horse?

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Filed under: Horse • Taboos • Television • Top Chef

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  6. cory

    uhm.......... by the time the add airs the horses are already dead. go home and thing about important issues like the fact that religion is contrieved, tv (maybe even top chef) is making you an idiot and central banks are destroying your buying power.

    never mind have another snickers and a coke watch american gladiators and get fat and stupid

    June 8, 2011 at 2:52 am |
  7. joe cowboy

    whoever thinks meat is meat ohhh so are you.

    May 26, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  8. Caitlin

    I couldn't reply to you directly (Christine A. Jubic aka MuleKist) so here it is. I don't give a rats ass what the humane society says. I don't believe a word of their crap they spew out because they do nothing to actually help anyone but themselves. Good day.

    May 22, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  9. Mary Hinojosa

    No only is it cruel but most people do not know what has been given to the horses. Some of the medications can cause cancer. Wormers, lasix, sedatives and ultiple meds are given to horses and it states clearly that humans should not eat the meat if a horse is treated with these medications.

    The public does not know this.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:46 am |
  10. Cathy

    I really wouldn't have a problem with horses as a food if they were raised with the same management, safeguards, and required record keeping–from birth to slaughter–that apply to all animals raised for food. But this isn't done, so you have animals treated with all kinds of pharmaceuticals that would never be allowed in any other animal intended for food consumption.. should they enter the food chain? Is the meat safe? No. They are transported to slaughter in inhumane and unsafe conditions. The US was so far ahead of Canada in banning types of inhumane transport. The equipment used in slaughtering horses were developed for use in cattle. Cattle have short necks that don't move. So the bolt that hits them in the head to kill them works. Horses see it coming and try to evade, often resulting in a lot of injury. If the objective is to "feed the poor", there are a lot better ways to do it than emphasizing meat production of any kind. But I don't see how this applies to a show about upscale cooking. I will remember the sponsors of this program and make it a point not to buy their products.

    May 22, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  11. Christine A. Jubic aka MuleKist

    What people fail to see or undersand about US in America as concerns the slaughtering of our American equines and what it is about them that we think "makes them so special," from other animals,.... besides being an important part of our cultural and historical tradition and heritage, and symbolic of all good character traits we propose to have or strive to have for ourselves; ....freedom, strength, intelligence, courage, independance, etc., But what LEGALLY makes them so special is the fact that horsemeat is not on the USDA's "officially approved list" of food-chain animals and since slaughter is a horror reserved for food-chain animals only,.....American Equines, at least, should be protected from it, anytime and anywhere. Sad but true, since we closed the last horse slaughter house down a couple of years ago, America is STILL the WORLDS #1 Exporter of Horses for human consumption abroad. It is the organized equine industry pushing to keep the horse slaughter pipeline going, giving them a fast and easy way to dispose of those that are no longer profitable for them to keep. Having the option to sell horses to slaughter enables them to continue in their overbreeding – all this despite the fact theat there are several viable workable solutions but the Equine Industrialists (The PuppyMillers of the Equine World) Dont even what to hear about them or discuss them seriously. Such is the way of powerful "ruling classes" that dont really want to change their world at all, unless it would further benefit their business (and not necessairily their horses) Most arent in it for the love of the horse so much, but for the thrill of the race and love of the money it might make them, particulalry if they are lucky enough to get a champ....but even Champs are sold to slaughter: Remember FERDINAND remember Excellor ...End the Slaughter of All American Equines and Let the Foreigners Eat their Own if they want , but leave our American Equines in the Stables and OFF of Dinnertables ! Use REAL Euthansia if you really have to put a horse down,....SLAUGHTER is not and should never be confused with REAL euthansia...anyone who tells you slaughter is humane you can pretty much just figger they are either (a) Just lying to US straight out to stick to and bolster their lie, or, (b) they are true idiots who have never compared the two and dont know what they are talking about. Dont believe they hype of the liars and the truth for yourself. Theres LOTS of info out there : Google "Horse slaughter" and see. Educate your selves and then you can form your own intelligent opinions and make better informed decisions on what is really going on with this issue . Hopefully,after careful study you will come down on the side of the majority of Americans, horse owners or lovers or breeders or not) Who are appalled at the notion of eating horsemeat and want the WHOLE WORLD to stop eatng ousr. This will never happen until the Industrialist get their breeding under control and stop sending their unwanted ones to Kill-markerts.It is a problem they have created and are HAPPY with cause they dont see it as a problem at all,..but as a more economical way of running that business by exploiting their "equine atheletes" to their last dying day, selling them to slaughter so the last drop of the blood can be dripped out of their upside down body while hung on a hook by one leg usually still alive, still kicking and bleeding, throat cut – dying body. Not Humane. Not Euthansia, but bloody cruel NEEDLESS UNNECESSARY slaughter.

    May 21, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • te1904

      Thank you Christine. The breeders are indeed at fault. As are the makers of products such as Premarin, where mares are bred for their urine while gestating, and the foals are "thrown" away at birth so the mares can be rebred for more PMU (Pregnant Mare Urine) production. This is pharmaceutical factory farming. Factory farming is a terrible life for all animals.

      May 22, 2011 at 1:17 am |
      • Christine A. Jubic aka MuleKist

        Yes you are right,...not too forget the Equine Industries "Other Dirty Little Secrets" such as the killing of newborn baby nurse-mare foals; Used mostly by the racing industry so the new-mom racing horse can be "bred back" quickley and returned to the track for more racing,. while the poor unwanted baby born to the nurse mare is is an unwanted by-product and is discared so that the "better born" racing foal may nurish itself on the collustrum rich first mothers milk so it, instead of the mommas real baby, can be nurished. The unwanted babies are usually taken out to the back of the barn and clubbed in the head or left to starve and then sold off to the renderers so that thier hides can be made into hi-fashion Gucci bags and shoes and stuff....Another American Disgrace

        May 22, 2011 at 2:07 am |
  12. Debbie

    Horse meat may be on the menu in the countries mentioned, but certainly not in the US or Canada. Big mistake.!

    May 21, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
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