In spite of its love for horses, Argentina is the world’s leading exporter of horse meat having shipped 23.880 tons in 2010, valued 75 million US dollars according to the country’s Animal health and Agro-food quality service, SENASA.
Leading markets for the product are Russia, Holland, France, Italy, Japan, Belgium and Germany, with the Russians taking over half the exported volume. World horse meat trade in 2009 according to FAO totalled some 145.000 tons.
Horse meat is believed to be healthier than beef since it has less cholesterol, high iron content and is free of foot and mouth disease. The export industry took off in Argentina in 1995, following the regulation of the market. For decades slaughtering horse for domestic consumption was banned in Argentina.
However Argentina has always been an exporter of horse hides and bristles and fat was used for making candles and soap. At the beginning of last century horse meat was mixed with other meats to make sausages and canned food.
According to Argentine Agriculture and Livestock ministry estimates there are 1.9 million horses in the country, and last year 150.000 were slaughtered.
Although Argentina is the world leader in horse meat exports, the 75 million USD are insignificant compared to the over a billion USD in beef overseas sales of last year.