I.G.H.A. / HorseAid's U.S.D.A. Report


U.S.D.A. Promotes Horse & Goat Meat


Reference Page: Old USDA 1 - Archival Information Page


From: http://www.usda.gov/agency/fsis/horsgoat.html (that URL is now a dead link).

U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service Washington, DC 20250

(Consumer Publications)

February 1997

Food Safety of GOAT and HORSE

With the emerging popularity of Caribbean cuisine in America, goat meat is being used increasingly. Most U.S. horse meat is exported to Europe where it is especially popular in Belgium and France. Goats and horses are two of the food-animal species under mandatory USDA inspection. Read on for more information about these lesser known sources of meat.

Background on Goat

Goat is thought to have been the earliest animal domesticated besides sheep and dogs. Cave art 10,000 to 20,000 years ago indicates that goats were common and important then. At the present time, goats provide the principle source of animal protein in many North African and Middle Eastern nations. Goat is also important in the Caribbean, in Southeast Asia, and developing tropical countries. Three-fourths of all the goats in the world are located in the developing regions of the world.

Kids (goats under a year of age) are often slaughtered when 3 to 5 months of age and weighing from 25 to 50 pounds. Kids do not store much body fat until they are about a year of age. Many goats are older and heavier when marketed, but most, except aged cull goats, are slaughtered when less than a year of age. The meat of older goats is darker and less tender, but more juicy and flavorful than kid. The meat from males is lighter in color and lower in fat. The meat from females is more desirable for steaks and chops, and is more tender.

Background on Horses for Meat

Horse was commonly eaten in many countries in pre-Christian Europe, but not in Islamic or Jewish countries, since under Mosaic Law horse meat is considered unclean because it conformed to the formula of an animal that was not at the same time cloven-hoofed and cud-chewing. In pre-Christian times horse meat eating in northern Europe figured prominently in Teutonic religious ceremonies, particularly those associated with the worship of the god Odin.

In 732 A.D. Pope Gregory III began a concerted effort to stop this pagan practice, and it has been said that the people of Iceland were reluctant to embrace Christianity for some time largely over the issue of giving up horse meat. In some countries the effects of this prohibition by the Catholic Church have lingered, and horse meat prejudices have progressed from taboos to avoidance to abhorrence. Today, however, horse meat is commonly consumed in many European countries.

How are Goats and Horses Raised for Food?

In the U.S. there are three distinct types of goats:

1. Dairy goats, raised under intensive management primarily for milk; 2. Spanish or Mexican goats, produced under extensive range conditions for meat; and 3. Angora goats, also managed rather extensively, primarily for fiber.

Excess males and cull goats are also used for meat. The Spanish and Angora goats are increasing in numbers in the Southwestern states, primarily in Texas. On brushy ranges they improve the pasture for cattle and sheep by eating large amounts of twigs, shrubs, and brush.

Horses aren't specifically raised for food like most livestock and poultry. Their diets vary according to their age, breed and the work they do.

Can Hormones and Antibiotics be Used When Raising Goats and Horses?

Antibiotics may be given to prevent or treat disease in goats and horses. Hormones are not approved for growth promotion in goats or horses.

A "withdrawal" period is required from the time most antibiotics are administered until it is legal to slaughter the animal. This is so residues can exit the animal's system.

Goat and horse meat are tested for antibiotics, sulfonamides and pesticide residues if problems are suspected. Also, the Food Safety and Inspection Service's National Residue Program routinely tests horses and goats at slaughtering establishments. Currently there is no market for imported horse meat in the United States. However, imported goat meat is sampled at ports of entry for residues that may result from the use of animal drugs, pesticides, or environmental contaminants. Data from residue monitoring rarely show residue violations.

Are Goats and Horses Inspected?

Goats and horses are covered under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and thus must be slaughtered under federal or state inspection. Any carcasses slaughtered for sale must be inspected.

Goats federally inspected:

* 1984: 107,299 * 1989: 230,297 * 1993: 289,382 * 1994: 364,905

Horses (equines) federally inspected:

* 1984: 130,825 * 1989: 342,877 * 1993: 184,320 * 1994: 109,353

Are Meats from These Animals Graded?

No. There are no quality or yield grades for goat or horse.

Retail Cuts of Goat and Horse Meat

Retail cuts of goat are similar to those for lamb or mutton. Goat should have light pink to bright red, firm, fine-grained flesh with well-distributed white fat. In some breeds of goat there can be color variation between males and females in other breeds there is no difference.

Retail cuts of horse are similar to those of beef. The meat is leaner, slightly sweeter in taste, with a flavor somewhat between that of beef and venison. Good horse meat is very tender, but it can also be slightly tougher than comparable cuts of beef. The meat is higher in protein and lower in fat. The meat of animals beyond three years of age is a brilliant vermilion color and has better flavor. The meat of young horses is more tender but lighter in color.

The most popular cuts of horse meat come from the hindquarters: tenderloin, sirloin, fillet steak, rump steak and rib. Less tender cuts are ground.

Where are Goat and Horse Meat Consumed?

The demand for meat from goats has increased in some markets of the southeastern USA, which has led to new marketing opportunities for the small farmer/rancher. There has been an increase in the influx of ethnic groups from areas of the world where goat meat comprises a significant portion of the diet. In addition, there has been an increase in the consumption of "ethnic" foods as consumers explore and broaden their culinary experiences. Goat meat is often served in specialty dishes centered around festival or holiday events.

Although many Americans have an aversion to eating horse meat, the horse meat industry is now rivaling the beef and pork industries in the amounts of fresh meat shipped abroad. In 1994, 109,353 pounds of horse meat was shipped overseas. In Sweden horse meat outsells lamb and mutton combined. It is also commonly consumed in Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, but it is most popular in Belgium and France.


Meat from goats and horses is low in fat. A 100-gram (3 1/2 ounces) serving of cooked, roasted meat contains:

Goat: 143 calories; 27 grams protein; 3 grams fat; 3.7 milligrams iron; 86 milligrams sodium; and 75 milligrams cholesterol.

Horse: 175 calories; 28 grams protein; 6 grams fat; 5 milligrams iron; 55 milligrams sodium; and 68 milligrams cholesterol.

Are These Meats Classified as "Red"?

Both goat and horse are considered red meats.

Safe Handling of Goat and Horse Meat

Handle goat and horse meat the same as any other type of meat. Make your selection just before checking out at the register. Put packages of raw horse or goat in disposable plastic bags (if available) to contain any leakage which could cross contaminate cooked foods or produce. Take packaged horse or goat home immediately and refrigerate it at 40 F; use within 3 to 5 days, or freeze (0 F). If kept frozen continuously, it will be safe indefinitely.

There are three ways to defrost meat: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave. Never defrost on the counter or in other locations. It's best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. To defrost in cold water, do not remove packaging. Be sure the package is airtight or put it into a leakproof bag. Submerge the package in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes to be sure it stays cold.

When microwave defrosting meat, plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn't have been destroyed.

Foods defrosted in the microwave or by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing because they may potentially have been held at temperatures above 40 F.

Cooking of Goat and Horse Meat

For safety, cook ground meat from horse and goat to 160 F, or until juices are clear with no trace of pink or cloudiness. Roasts, steaks and chops can be cooked to medium rare (145 F), medium (160 F) or well done (170 F). Less tender cuts should be braised (roasted or simmered with a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan) or stewed.

Kid meat lends itself to all recipes for lamb: chops, leg or shoulder, crown roasts, rack or saddle, and kebabs. A goat carcass rarely has much subcutaneous fat to protect it from drying. Goat meat is generally quite lean although its higher moisture content makes it tender when handled properly.

The meat of adult goats is almost always subjected to stewing because of its relative toughness, but in stews it is flavorful and tender.

Storage Times

Since product dates ("sell-by dates") aren't a guide for safe use of a product, how long can the consumer store the food and still use it at top quality? Follow these tips:

+ Purchase the product before the date expires.

+ Follow handling recommendations on product.

+ Keep goat or horse meat in its package until using.

+ It is safe to freeze goat or horse meat in its original packaging. If freezing longer than two months, overwrap these packages with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap or freezer paper, or place the package inside a plastic bag.

+ For best quality use ground cut-up (such as stew meat) goat or horse meat within two days of purchase, and larger cuts within three to five days, or freeze.

+ Ground or cut-up horse or goat meat will keep its best quality in the freezer for four months. Larger cuts, such as chops, steaks, or legs, or loins will keep their best quality six to nine months.

For additional food safety information about meat, poultry or eggs, call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1 (800) 535-4555. It is staffed by home economists, registered dietitians and food technologists from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time year round. An extensive selection of food safety recordings can be heard 24 hours a day using a touch-tone phone.

Information and publications can be downloaded from USDA's Home Page on the Internet at http://www.usda.gov/fsis or received by fax by calling (202) 690-3754 or 3755, or toll-free at 1 (800) 238-8281.

The media may call Bessie Berry, Manager, USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, at (202) 720-5604.

For Further Information Contact: FSIS Food Safety Education and Communications Staff Meat and Poultry Hotline Phone: 1-800-535-4555.


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