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Originally published Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 7:05 PM

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Now & Then

Horse meat was not taboo in times of war

While modern American sensibilities have no taste for horse meat, it was different during the world wars, when beef and other meat were scarce. Vendors at Seattle's Pike Place Market offered horse meat as an alternative, especially since it was government-inspected but not rationed.

IN THESE United States of America, eating horse meat is just not done by most people these days. Yet in this week's historical view we see three grown men boldly confronting that taboo and raising another sign announcing in big letters "horse meat." They promise to have it by Monday — inspected by the government and not rationed, so always available as long as there are Montana horses to slaughter.

While the name of the Pike Place Market business offering the equine steaks is the "Montana Horse Meat Market," the buyer could not know for certain that all this promised horse meat would actually come from the Big Sky Country. They may have wished it were so. In 1942, the likely year for this sign-lifting, much of the Montana range was still open.

Partners Lewis Butchart and Andrew Larson were already selling beef and pork at 1518 Pike Place in the late 1930s, but then with the war and the rationing, they brought out the horses. In a 1951 Seattle Times advertisement, they used the Montana name and offered specialties like "young colt meat, tender delicious like fine veal." "Montana" is still used in the 1954 City Directory, but not long after.

In the mid-1960s (and perhaps later) one could still find a smaller selection of cheval cuts (the French name for the meat the French often eat) at 1518 Pike Place. Market resident Paul Dunn remembers buying horse kidneys there for his cat. Those humans who have tried it commonly describe the meat as "tender, slightly sweet and closer to beef than venison." Those who promote the meat might note that it is lower in fat and higher in protein than beef. That is not likely to change the average modern American's view about eating an animal most view as a pet.

Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard's blog at www.pauldorpat.com.

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