Regional, Monthly All-Breed Horse Magazine
Distributed throughout the Greater Rockies
 Since 1993

Home   Calendar   Classifieds   Advertiser Links    Horse Sales    Stallion Profiles     Business Profiles   Ad Rates    Subscribe   Contact Us

Copyright 2009 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor;

Zoo Diets & Demand for Horse Meat

By Dorinda Troutman, RMR Staff Writer


April 2009 Issue


      Many zoos feed horse meat-based diets to their large cats and birds of prey. Because the horse slaughter houses in the U.S. have been shut down, the majority of horse meat for zoos comes from Canada . However, some is still processed in the U.S.

Why horsemeat?

  Steve Feldman, spokesperson for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in Maryland , says “We want veterinarians to decide what’s best for big cats, and they say that horse meat most closely approximates wild meat. Some zoos use just horse meat, others use a beef/horse meat combination. Most of our members get horse meat from suppliers who buy it from Canadian slaughter houses, although zoos represent only the smallest fraction of buyers of horse meat processed there.”

      Gigi Allianic, spokesperson for the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington, explains that zoo veterinarians prefer feeding horse meat over beef because it has more amino acids, is leaner (fewer saturated fats), and contains more vitamins, such as B-12, B-6 and C.

      Ana Bowie at the Denver Zoo says that although they have converted a number of zoo felines to beef-based diets, a few of their cats have sensitive systems and need horse meat to supplement the beef. Also, their birds of prey diets contain horse meat mixed with other products.

      In 2008, the Denver Zoo used 52,560 pounds of beef-based diet and 12,920 pounds of horse-based diet. According to Bowie , zoo managers “wish they could convert all zoo carnivores to a beef-based diet, but they need to do what is best for the animals in the zoo’s care.”

If not Canada , where?

      A few, smaller meat processing plants around the U.S. that sell horse meat to zoos either buy it locally, or kill and process their own. Due to the emotions and controversy surrounding horse slaughter, few owners were interested in speaking to RMR about how they earn their livelihood.

      Triple A Brand Meat Company in Burlington , Colorado , sells a feline diet that is made up of “beef muscle meat, horse muscle meat, bone product, beef heart, beef liver, and KanTeck Feline Complete vitamin/mineral premix.” It is packaged in three 10-pound, frozen bags per box. The company also sells “bovine leg shanks,” raw beef hide pieces, and “beef chunk.”

      Doyle Weingartt, owner of Triple A, says that his business gets their horse meat fresh from local rendering plants, where unwanted horses are either brought in already dead, or alive and then killed at the plant. Triple A sells its products to zoos and racing greyhound owners and trainers.

      “All zoos push for the cheapest diet. The nutritional value of beef and horse meat is the same. As far as the zoo world goes, horse meat is not a requirement. An all-beef diet is fine. Everything is economics,” says Weingartt, whose family has owned the business for three generations.

      Weingartt says that he has doubts, with the current negative feelings about horse slaughter plants by the general public, that new horse slaughter houses will be built in the U.S.

      “Again, it’s back to economics,” he says. “I don’t think horse people will change public opinion. Who is going to build a plant that may not be there in a year or two?” asks Weingartt, referring to public sentiment, and a proposed national law that would make it illegal to transport horses to slaughter.

      Bravo Packing, Inc., in Carney’s Point, New Jersey , supplies horse meat to zoos and removes dead animal carcasses for veterinarians and individuals. The owner, who angrily refused to identify himself, and loudly cursed the media and humane organizations that he declared had been harassing him, eventually calmed down enough to explain that people bring him horses and “they request the horse be used for animal food.”

      “We are not a rendering plant. We process [kill and butcher] about five horses a month and about 90% of them are donated. They are old or blind or crippled or buck . As long as the owners request they be used for animal food, we are legal,” explains the owner. “We are one of the last places that do this in the U.S.

      When asked if he had done business with or bought horse meat from any of the three large horse slaughter plants before they closed, he says that he had “only occasionally traded hides for trimmings” with one plant.

      Central Nebraska Packing, in North Platte , Nebraska , is one of the larger producers of zoo carnivore diets in the U.S.

      Marvin Powell, office manager, says that the company purchases their horsemeat in Canada now that U.S. processing plants are closed.

      The horsemeat is inspected by both the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in Canada and the USDA when it crosses the border. The company is proud of refusing to use what is termed “4-D Meat,” which stands for meat that comes from “dead, dying, diseased or disabled” animals.

      “When we were processing horsemeat for humans, the European Union inspectors would also come and inspect the meat going to Europe ,” explains Powell. “They had a little different standard than the USDA, but were pretty strict. USDA inspectors tell us that we are cleaner than beef processing plants.”

      Powell says that Nebraska Packing has worked closely with veterinarians and nutritionists to mix the right diet for zoo animals, and that the company ships about two truckloads a week to zoos, but that includes some diets not based upon horsemeat.

      Although many U.S. large zoos may be attempting to phase out horse meat in the diets of their large carnivores, most zoos will follow the recommendation of their nutritionists and veterinarians in making dietary decisions. This, in turn, will keep the small businesses operating that provide them with horse meat in the U.S.

Copyright 2009 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor;


Back to Articles Page





Rocky Mountain Rider Magazine • Montana Owned & Operated 
PO Box 995 • Hamilton, MT 59840 • 888-747-1000  •  406-363-4085 •

Home      Articles      Previous Covers     Photo Album     Distribution Map      Editorial Guidelines      Camera Ready Requirements