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Marc Vetri Doesn't Understand The Horse Meat Hubbub

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Brad Spence (Amis), Jeff Michaud (Osteria), and Marc Vetri (Vetri, Osteria, Amis, Alla Spina) with veal.
Brad Spence (Amis), Jeff Michaud (Osteria), and Marc Vetri (Vetri, Osteria, Amis, Alla Spina) with veal.
Photo: Brad Spence

Last week, news broke regarding Philly chef Peter McAndrews putting horse meat on his menu at Monsu, and Marc Vetri was quoted as saying he didn't understand what all the fuss was about. That comment snowballed into a story of how Vetri was going to be putting horse on his next menu at his famous eponymous restaurant, which made the conversation that much louder. In reality, Vetri has no plans to add equine to his menu, but did have more than a few thoughts about the opposition to horse meat being served in restaurants in the U.S.

So, how did all of this horse meat talk start?
I can't remember exactly, but it happens every few years. I got an email asking me my thoughts about another chef doing it in Philly, and said I just ate some, and didn't understand the big deal. Next thing I know, the headline says I'm putting it on my menu.

So, it's not going on your menu?
No. I have no plans to. I mean, I'm not against the idea, but it's not something we've planned on. And, I would never just put horse on the menu as a stunt. Ultimately, your menu should represent your best efforts, and I don't have a horse dish I want to do yet.

So, when would horse show up on your menu?
Well, if I had a farmer growing it specifically for me, and fed a certain diet that would make it stand out and that it brought special flavor, then I would think about it.

You recently had some in Canada right? Did you enjoy it?
Very much. I had a filet-like cut from a farm in Lancaster County when I was in Montreal and it was great. It wasn't gamey at all like venison, and it actually had a smooth beef-like flavor. At least the cut I ate did.

Is horse prevalent in Italy?
It is, but, I hate to say this, but what I had over there just wasn't very good. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't mindblowing and made me think "Oh, I need to have this on my menu back home." It was dried out and jerky-like. The version I had in Montreal was much better.

President Obama lifted the ban on slaughter of horses in 2011, but there are still groups vocally opposed to eating horse. Why do you think that is?
I really couldn't tell you. With the vegetarians it's all animals, but with these people it's just horses. We have no problem eating chickens, cows, goats, and all sorts of fowl. It makes no sense that they pick and choose horses as an untouchable meat. If it's an animal that's worn out its welcome as a working animal and then they slaughter it, that's one thing. But, those who are born and bred to be eaten like so many other animals, it just doesn't add up that there should be opposition to the practice.

Denis Leary made a joke about Americans, saying we only eat ugly animals, which is why kittens, otters, and puppies get a free pass. Even veal, which is a cow, is treated differently because it's a baby version, which is kept caged up and killed while young. Do you think that it's the emotional connection with the animal that is causing the argument?
I don't know if that's it. I can't say. But, the bottom line is people absolutely can't say one animal is OK to eat while another isn't, especially if they're trying to make laws against it. That's just not OK. People make choices every day at restaurants to be vegetarian, or pescatarian, or they won't eat red meat. That's fine. That's their choice as a consumer and I understand that. But, putting restrictions on what animals are allowed to be sold to eat doesn't make any sense to me.

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