The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday granted permission for a former New Mexico beef slaughterhouse to convert its facility into one meant to slaughter horses, the Associated Press reported. Despite the permit, however, plant operations won’t begin until the federal government allows inspection, a move that is currently up in the air.
Valley Meat Co. of Roswell, N.M., will become the first U.S. facility permitted to process horse meat since Congress banned the practice in 2006. The USDA may grant similar permission to plants in Iowa and Missouri as early as sometime this week.
But before horse slaughter can take place, the USDA needs to have inspectors on site, and it’s not clear yet if or when those inspectors will be hired. The Obama administration’s fiscal budget for 2014 eliminates funding for horse meat inspection, which would effectively mean no horse slaughter could take place in the U.S. regardless of its legality.
Earlier this month, the House Appropriations Committee approved a $19.45 billion funding bill the USDA and U.S. Food and Drug Administration that did not allocate any money for horse meat inspection, further reducing the likelihood that slaughter would once again get off the ground.
Congress reinstated funding for horse slaughter in 2011, five years after banning it, but the USDA has not granted any facilities a slaughter permit until now. The permit comes more than a year after Valley Meats applied for one, and six months after the company sued the USDA for dragging its feet on issuing it.© Food Safety News