Equine inspections will be back on the menu at USDA by the end of the year, according to Al Almanza, administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

On Saturday, Almanza told the Texas-based Southwest Meat Association, meeting in San Antonio, that USDA will be ready to inspect plants that slaughter horses for human consumption by the end of the year.

The San Antonio Express-News quoted Almanza as saying FSIS had two applications for equine inspection at slaughter plants that “wanted to get started as soon as possible.”

Valley Meat Co. in Roswell, NM and Unified Equine, which has sought locations in Missouri and Oklahoma, are probably the two applicants Almanza was referring to in his remarks.

USDA’s inspection services were prohibited for about five years from making any expenditures to inspect horses slaughtered for human consumption. President Obama and Congress lifted that prohibition in a budget deal made a year ago.

Unified Equine, headed by Wyoming State Rep. Sue Wallis, has not been able to acquire a closed beef processing plant at Rockville, MO as quickly as planned because the current owner does not have a clear title to the property due to ongoing litigation. Unified Equine now has plans for an Oklahoma plant.

It’s possible that before either group can get an inspected horsemeat slaughter operation up and running, Congress will reimpose the ban on USDA’s services. The U.S. House’s proposed budget already contains such a provision.