An Iowa company received approval this week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to slaughter horses for meat to be shipped overseas. Although horse meat is rarely eaten in the United States, large numbers of unwanted horses have led some to be shipped out of the country, where they’re butchered and sold.
The president of Responsible Transportation, Keaton Walker, says his company hopes to process horses in Iowa. Some of the meat could be sold to zoos. Walker says he sees a huge opportunity in the market. “Our goal is to process five-percent of the animals currently leaving (the country). If we remove that transportation cost, and use strict oversight, use our systems, we believe that’s a better alternative,” Walker says.
Responsible Transportation is based in Sigourney. “We believe our opportunity here is to humanely process five-percent of the animals currently being exported from the U.S. to Mexico. We recognize that horse meat isn’t something commonly consumed in the United States, but we hope people can respect decisions other cultures make regarding their diets,” Walker said. After receiving a certificate of inspection, Walker is now waiting on confirmation from the USDA for when the meat inspectors will be available. Then, he can begin hiring and training employees.
The USDA recently agreed to assign horse meat inspectors to a New Mexico plant. A facility in Missouri is expected to receive similar approval. The USDA said in a statement that because Congress has not banned the slaughter of horse meat in recent appropriations bills, the agency is legally required to grant health inspections to U.S. companies that meet federal guidelines — including Responsible Transportation in Sigourney. Animal rights groups have filed a lawsuit against the USDA, claiming the agency failed to conduct the necessary environmental review before authorizing the facilities.