US slaughter plants unlikely to find EU market


American horse slaughter plants looking to reopen their doors will not be selling meat into the European Union, according to the Equine Welfare Alliance.

The horse advocacy group said its inquiries with European Union officials made it clear that American horse meat would not meet current requirements.

The European Union has been rocked in recent months by a scandal involving contamination of processed beef products with horse meat.

Authorities across at least a dozen European nations have been investigating, suggesting the contamination resulted from either gross incompetence of deliberate subsitution.

In recent weeks, several shuttered cattle slaughter plants have clamored for the US Department of Agriculture to provide horse meat inspections.

Valley Meats, in New Mexico, has publicly indicated its desire to open in as little as three weeks.

However, the Equine Welfare Alliance says it will have to do so without the ability to sell to the European Union, which is the main market for US horse meat.

The alliance – a dues-free umbrella organization with over 275 member organizations and over 1000 individual members worldwide in 18 countries – said it had received confirmation from EU authorities that “by virtue of Commission decision 2011/163/EU the US is not authorized to export horsemeat to the EU”.

The decision was made in 2011, when the USDA did not comply with new regulations requiring submittal of a drug residue control program, the alliance said.

Approval of such an application requires extensive review, as well as audits and can take up to several years to complete.

The EU authority, SANCO, went on to say: “Our Directorate General, up to now, does not record a recent residue monitoring plan on horse meat submitted by USDA”.

This, the alliance said, meant the process had yet to begin.

The scandal over horse meat being substituted for beef in a myriad of products, as well as the finding of the banned drug phenylbutazone in some of those products, has further dimmed the prospects for a lifting of the ban.

The alliance’s John Holland explains the bleak prospects for private horse slaughter plants in the US, saying: “The plants will have no access to the markets even if the EU ban is lifted because the distribution is controlled by a few multi-nationals, and those expecting to contract with these companies should heed the story of Natural Valley Farms (SK Canada) which lost millions trying to do so.”

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