Unusual Japanese Restaurant: Serving A Horse Meat Exclusive Menu With Surprising Ingredients

The latest unusual business concept I've come across, not only fits perfectly with the type of ventures I normally feature on this column - but it also happens to be related to a topic I'm personally passionate about; horse slaughter. Strengthen your stomachs, readers, and prepare yourselves as we look at this unusual restaurant from a more serious perspective.

Kagurazaka Nikusushi in Tokyo, Japan is a chain of higher-end sushi restaurants that have a number of different concepts throughout the country. What makes this one different is that its menu serves delicacies made of a specific type of meat - namely, horse meat.

The consumption of horse meat has, admittedly, been part of the Japanese culture for centuries. So it should come as no surprise that the meat they call basashi or sakura niku (cherry meat) would appear on local menus. However, this new restaurant is a novelty in Japan since the intent is to serve a variety of cuts of horse meat as the primary menu option. It's an even bigger anomaly for those of us in the Western world that think of horses as pets, or working animals; rarely categorizing them with other livestock.

Serving raw meat in sushi restaurants has been increasing in popularity in Japan, where you'll find things like ground beef sushi on people's plates. Horse meat sushi at this restaurant is served similarly. The presentation is identical to what you'd expect when ordering what we would consider the more traditional sushi options, like fish. So, not only are customers consuming horse; they're also eating it raw over fresh sushi rice. Varieties include Nakaochi (back meat), Chutoro (medium fat), Karubi (rib),Tan (tongue), Negitoro (fatty green onion), and the Sashitoro.

Horse meat is a popular treat in Japan, and has been served since the end of the Pacific War (1945).  At that time it was consumed out of necessity due to meat shortages. While it is considered a delicacy only to much of the population, some demographics, like those from the Nagano Prefecture, eat it almost exclusively as an alternative to cow beef, according to Japan Today. Statistical data on the average lifespan of various Japanese demographics raises an interesting question: is it this dietary preference that is responsible for their population living longer than any other in the country?

While consuming horse meat may not be your cup of tea, it's favored in Japan since it's high in protein and low in calories. Plus, it's said to have a lower risk of e-coli than beef. If you're an adventurous culinary type, you might be tempted to visit an unusual restaurant like this one for the cultural experience; however, there are a few things you should know first.

I know you're thinking "oh here we go", but at a time when society as a whole is concerned about monitoring the "hidden" ingredients that we consume and eating nutritious products that are as close to their "natural" form as possible; trust me, this is something that you want to know. Horse meat is not drug-free, organic, ethically raised (or any other buzzwords we like to look for these days).

Horses are not raised to be eaten, which already puts them in a different category than other consumed livestock like cows or chickens. The horses that end up being served at restaurants like this one are former race horses, show horses, pets, working horses and more. If you're not a horse lover that questions the ethics of how horses are "retired", you may not see this as a problem. However, as someone concerned about your long-term health, you should be.

A large percentage of these horses have been given any number of common drugs to treat minor ailments from aches and pains to fevers. No one hesitates to provide these horses drugs that are as normal as you or I popping an Aleve for a headache, but they're not considering the fact that these horses may ultimately enter the food chain, and that's where the problem lies.

These routinely administered drugs may be harmless to horses, but they're not to humans when they're consumed. In fact, these drugs are either banned by the FDA for use in food producing animals, and/or they've never been tested on humans. There are repercussions when these "basic drugs" are ingested by humans, and let's not even get into the potential effects of  other illegal performance enhancing drugs equines are often given throughout their careers.

My rescued StandardbredMy rescued Standardbred

Drugged horses slip through the cracks because of the current system that's in place. According to Humane Society International, Japan is a major importer of horses destined for slaughter (they're heavily sedated and transported alive). These horses are shipped from North America, primarily Canada, which currently has a pretty casual approach when it comes to monitoring the eligibility of horses for slaughter. Any individual putting the horse up for sale simply needs to sign a form indicating that they've owned the horse for a minimum of 6 months and that it's been drug-free during that period. Often, the individuals making these claims are simply hired shippers or third-party agents with no knowledge of each horse's history. No further verification or testing is conducted, and sellers are taken at their word that the animals can safely be consumed by humans. It has been well documented that this is not actually the case.

It's important to be aware that you'll get more than you bargained for when consuming horse meat at restaurants like this one. Ingredients like cancer causing agents sure won't be listed on the menu, so typical diners will never be any the wiser to the fact that their meal has extra seasoning.

We can't condemn anyone for their cultural beliefs, and of course, you're welcome to make your own dining choices. This isn't about weather it's "weird" or "gross" to sit down and dine on Secretariat's ancestors; it's about educating people on the realities so that governments (particularly those in the business of exporting) can begin putting measures in place to ensure that meat intended for human consumption is in fact safe.

After all, a cultural culinary experience is a lot more appealing when you're not playing Russian Roulette with your health; don't you think?

Via: RocketNews