Horse meat and the economics of disgust

From FP Passport Fri Feb 8 2013, 11:00:59

The big story out of the British isles this week is that consumers in Ireland and the U.K. have been unwittingly eating horse meat in several products -- including burgers and packaged lasagna -- labeled as beef. As the New York Times notes, "Few things divide British eating habits from those of continental Europe as much as a distaste for consuming horse meat."

Horse meat is an interesting cultural case. While considered disgusting in Britain and the United States, ("So hungry I could eat a horse," is an expression here for a reason.) over 200,000 horses are slaughtered for their meat every year in the European Union, according to the Humane Society International. It's also a staple in some Central Asian countries -- Kazakh Olympians brought along their own supply of horse sausages to the London Olympics. It seems to be something of an Anglo taboo, though an often hypocritical one. Australians, Canadians, and New Zealanders  don't generally eat horses but they do slaughter them for export.  

Economist Alvin Roth, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize, uses horse meat as a central example in his famous paper, "

Here's what he has to say about horse meat: 

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