Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Packaged Horse Meat - Urumqi, China

I was looking forward to visiting Urumqi, located far out in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of northwestern China, near Mongolia and Kazakhstan. 
Map of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. 
There are lots of Kazakh people there who like to eat horse meat and I had a goal to find and eat some while we were there. The Wuyi Night Market there is known for its gourmet street food, but unfortunately, we were not spending the night in Urumqi. We had a three hour bus ride from Turpan to Urumqi that morning, then were flying out of Urumqi to Almaty, Kazakhstan late that afternoon. My only opportunity would be a 45 minute visit to a different market in downtown Urumqi in the afternoon. 

I talked to our guide, A.J., who agreed to take me to where I could find some horse meat in the market. He led us into a large warehouse type building, mostly selling scarves and jewelry, then down several layers of escalator to a Carrefour of all places, a large French grocery store chain. After walking up and down several aisles he finally located a refrigerated section and pointed to two packages with horses on the front - horse meat, although the writing on the packages was all in Chinese. This was not what I'd been hoping for, I'd envisioned a nice warm meal of cooked horse meat. But this had to do. When I questioned A.J. about the warmed version, he said it was in another part of town and we did not have time to get there. 

So I bought both packages, it was cheap. Along with a Coke Zero, the total came to about $7.00. 

I opened the first package on our bus trip to the airport. 
The meat was pinkish red and fatty. It had the texture and taste of corned beef, although a little sweeter. 

It was pretty good for packaged meat. Judy had a taste and agreed on the corned beef comparison, and I polished off the rest. 

I waited a couple of days to eat the other package. 
It was on our train and Judy was concerned it had not been refrigerated. We had found it in a refrigerated section, but the package was similar to foods that often do not need to be refrigerated. The opened product was much darker and did not look very appetizing. 

It probably was suffering from lack of refrigeration. However, I couldn't let it pass, so I ate a couple of pieces. It was stiffer and did not have as nice a flavor. After a couple of bites, I disposed of the rest. The question is whether it would have been much better if I'd eaten it the day I bought it. I suspect that is the case. 

I note a recent article in The Atlantic, "The Troubled History of Horse Meat in America", dated June 8, 2017, by Susanna Forrest. She notes that President Trump wants to cut the budget of the Bureau of Land Management used to care for wild horses. For 2017 the BLM has budgeted $80.6 million to care for 73,000 wild horses. In 2008 the budget was $36 million. Wild horses used to be slaughtered and the meat was shipped to Europe and Asia where it was consumed. However, animal rights activists got the practice stopped and the horses now sit in fenced areas and have to be fed by the BLM, a very expensive practice. The horse population has skyrocketed and those that are not penned are over-grazing the western deserts. I am not a fan of President Trump, but this proposed change makes sense. Bring back the slaughter houses for horses and ship the meat abroad. As long as we are still eating cows, sheep and chickens, the cultural taboo of eating horses in the U.S. should not prevent the slaughter of the excess horses so that the meat can be shipped to countries that will eat it. 


  1. I wonder if they use a specific type of horse.

  2. One of our guides mentioned that they do have a breed of horse that they raise for meat. I've not read anything that confirms tha.

  3. I think he said not that there is a breed of horse, but that some horses are raised to be eaten (e.g., lots of pasture time, not ridden, etc.). The first horse sample was pretty good. I'm glad the second one didn't make you sick.