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I will preface this post with a cautionary advisement that those who are squeamish scroll on through, however, the information is presented as it was found for those with an open mind.  Recently an acquaintance from China asked what my husband and I intend to do after retirement to which I repplied we would probably expand the farm and take on more animals.  He suggested donkeys.  At first I thought he meant as pets but he actually meant as a food source saying in China donkey meat is common and that he likes it very much.  He made the same observation regarding horse meat.  Curiosity took me down the rabbit path again and below is a very quick look at various cultures and the  eating of donkey meat.

donkey sausage from The great wildebeest migration blog

“It [horse] has nothing disagreeable to the eye or to the taste.  It makes a consommé rather less clear and bright than that of beef, and the meat loses rather more color in boiling; but after broiling or roasting, in which way horsemeat should always be cooked, it has no appearance by which it can be detected from beef.  There is perhaps, a slightly sweetish taste, which, however is entirely overcome by the salt, pepper, and sauces which are usually eaten with roast meat.  The flesh of the ass and mule has a finer grain than that of the horse, and has a very slight “gamy” taste, which, however is scarcely to be distinguished from a prime rump steak.

The celebrated “Bologna” sausage, when properly made, as it originally was in Italy, is made from donkey’s meat only.  The majority of that in the market to-day is made from the poorest grades of beef, mixed with other cheap meats, pork, etc.”.  [1895]

“Cooks almost invariably do the marketing in Paris, and observers have sometimes amused themselves with watching the number of those who supply themselves at shops that only sell horse, mule, and donkey meat, buying well trimmed joints for less than they would pay at the regular butcher’s but no doubt charging their employers as much as beef would have cost, the difference in the taste never being detected.

Choice pieces of horse meat fetch from about 10 cents a pound wholesale, and may be sold in the retail trade for as much as 18 cents a pound.  Donkey meat and mule meat have their own special patrons, and the votaries of horse flesh firmly believe that if horses were treated like oxen and well fed horse meat would soon be generally preferred to beef.”

When I was growing up my mother refused to purchase canned meat unless country of origin was printed on the can because various animals were known to be shipped to the U.S. and sold as canned beef.  Apparently that had been an issue for some time as we see from this 1897 quote.  “It is darkly whispered, indeed, that we Americans are already consuming no inconsiderable amount—not merely of horse-meat, but the flesh of mules and donkeys imported from Europe, in the shape of the toothsome sausage.  The finest grade of sausage that comes from France to this country is manufactured at Lyons, and consists exclusively of mule or donkey meat”.

“There are nearly two hundred horse-meat shops in Paris, and the consumption of this sort of food last year was:  Horses 21,291; donkeys 275; mules 61.  A local economist has estimated that horse-flesh is the staple food in one out of every three of the households of Paris.”

In Vienna horse and donkey meat were sold in shops required, as other countries were, to display signage as to what type meat it was and the amount per pound because beef, mutton, and pork were priced out of reach of the working class who needed a less expensive source of protein.

“The poorer classes of the Chinese eat every part of an animal and all kinds of animals.  In Northern China horse meat, mule meat and donkey meat are everywhere sold.  There are butcher shops in Peking where you can buy camel steaks”.

“I am sorry to say that the sausage-dealers are accused by Aristophanes of making their wares occasionally of dog and donkey-meat; but that is a charge which never dies” [Ancient Athens].

“Roast donkey makes an excellent dish, a young one tasting like veal, but old ones are very tough.  [Japan].

Early 20th century journals often refer to the consumption of such meat in areas of Africa and stories abound of soldiers cooking donkey and horse.  Pack animals and cavalry horses were still common and could always be used to stave off hunger as needed.

Macmillan’s tells us how roast donkey was perceived by the English who tried it.  [1868] “Every one who has eaten roast donkey has pronounced it excellent.  In flavor it is said to resemble turkey, though the colour is considerably darker.  The accomplished gourmet is aware what animal it is that contributes most largely to the composition of the best sausages in the world—the Lyons sausage”.

Not because horse or donkey is tainted other than in the minds of some Americans, any adventurous soul who wishes to give it a try may find it difficult to impossible to find commercially.  It sometimes finds its way across the Canadian border but the U.S. Department of Agriculture stopped inspecting slaughter houses known to process horse meat which ultimately means Americans are prohibited from selling the meat in the U.S.  Whether or not donkey or horse can be legally home butchered for one’s own use is a subject for another post.

Having said that, the Michigan State University’s “Table of State Humane Slaughter Laws” for most states on the list includes horses and mules.

Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods, chef and restaurateur March Murphy, and Gordon Ramsay, celebrity chef, are among those who have spoken out in support of easing horse meat restrictions.  Should lifting of the ban become a reality perhaps donkey meat would follow suit.  Blissful meals to all.

“The World To-day.  Vol. I, I 1.  1901.

“Mechanists’ Monthly Journal”.  Washington, D.C. 1910.

“The National Druggist”, Vol. 27.  March 1897.

“West Virginia Farm Review”.  Vol. 12.  1904.

“In Sunny France:  Present-day Life in the French Republic”.  1894.

“Life in Ancient Athens”.  1916.

“The Journal of Comparative Medicine and Veterinary Archives”.  Feb. 1895.

MacMillan’s Magazine.  Vol. 18.  Oct. 1868.  London.

“In Japanese Hospitals During War-Time (Apri. 1904 to July 1905).  1905.  London.