12:04 PM EDT, March 20, 2013
This year, there's been a huge scandal over in Europe involving how horse meat found its way into many different foods.
Horse meat is actually a pretty standard part of many cuisines around the world — it's only taboo in Western cultures where horses have gained pet status.
But even over here in the U.S. — if this week's Time Machine item is any indication — horse meat wasn't always as taboo as it is today. Humans here may not have eaten horse meat regularly half a century ago, but pets did.
This fascinating advertisement that ran exactly 50 years ago in the March 21, 1963, issue of The Interior Journal offers to buy "fresh dead horses" and, if that's not enough to make you a little queasy, it also offers a price for "old crippled and down horses."
In case you were wondering, the low-end $2 price is equal to about $15 in today’s money. The high-end offer of $12 would be about $89 today.
Even after adjusting for inflation, that seems to me like a cheap price for an entire horse, even if it is dead.
You obviously won't see any modern-day dog food companies being so open about using dying horses in their products, but I was surprised to learn it would still be perfectly legal to do so.
According to Marion Nestle, author of "Feed Your Pet Right," many horse slaughterhouses began pet food companies in the 1920s as a way to sell off their horse meat.
"Horse meat remained a major ingredient in dog foods throughout the 1940s," Nestle writes on foodpolitics.com. "Since then, pet food companies replaced horse meat with meats from other animals. Although it continues to be permitted in pet food, I'm not aware of any company that would dare use it. It would have to be disclosed on package labels."
I suppose using dead and dying horses in dog food can't have been all that bad since the dogs lived to tell the tale. But I'm still going to be checking the ingredient list on my dog's food bag when I get home.
Interior Time Machine is curated by IJ Editor Ben Kleppinger. Send comments to email@example.com.