Some visitors to Iceland, especially North Americans, are surprised to learn that Icelanders do in fact eat horses, the shock mostly due to how beautiful Icelandic horses are. Icelanders are, in turn, quick to point out the obvious value judgement being made there: are cows and chickens not also beautiful?
But the consumptions of horse—typically available as salted foal meat—does raise the question: how do farmers determine which horses are for riding and which are for eating? We asked Sveinn Steinarsson, the head of the Icelandic Horse Farmers Association, to elucidate:
“Farmers and those who raise horses predominantly raise horses for riding,” he says. “Some horses, though, turn out to be unsuitable for riding, on account of being bad tempered or too difficult to train, or perhaps injured to where it would be inadvisable to ride them. Those horses goes to meat production. There are also some farmers who are producing foal meat. These horses are birthed in great numbers in the autumn and slaughtered. So there are some farmers who are raising horses foe meat production, while there are other horse farmers who are trying to raise riding horses, but for those horses that don’t make the cut, they are slaughtered. The farmers have to choose. It’s pretty simple.”
If you do eat meat, then you should by all means hoof it to the store and give horse a try, even if it’s not your mane entrée.