Two commercial horse slaughterhouses will not be opening today in U.S. as scheduled. They would have been the first in seven years, following an expired ban on horse meat by Congress. A federal judge on Friday continued the ban temporarily and scheduled another hearing on the issue. The move dampens what had been expectations of reviving the domestic industry.
Before the ban in 2006, three horse slaughterhouses existed in the U.S. The meat was primarily exported to Europe and Japan for human consumption. When the ban took effect, U.S. horses went to Canada and Mexico for slaughter. Domestic horse meat production was expected to return to the levels seen 2006.
"There’s never been a change in demand and that is one reason why slaughter plants that are looking to open now are going to be able to transition to existing supply chains and existing buyers," said agricultural economist Mykle Taylor from Kansas State University.
Sue Wallis from the International Equine Business Association beleives lifting the ban would also spark domestic interest in horsemeat.
"There is a very eager niche market for horse meat here in the U.S.," said Wallis, explaining that ethnic communities are familiar with the meat, and its affordability and low fat content could attract other customers.
While horse meat production sparks outrage from animal activists, many residents in Rockville, Missouri felt differently. Rockville is a town of 250 people with 30 percent unemployment, says Mayor Dave Moore. He hopes a planned slaughterhouse plant could eventually bring 70 jobs to the town.
"You wouldn’t believe how many people would end up moving back, and there would just be so much cash revenue for my town." he said.
Another hearing on the processing ban will be scheduled within the next 30 days.