Is there horse meat in dog food?

Is there horse meat in dog food?

Can horses be used in pet food?

Pet food companies in the United States cannot use horse meat, according to the Equine Protection Network, which is a group dedicated to making a difference for abused, neglected and slaughter-bound horses. The main reason for this is because U.S. companies make more profit by selling it to countries where people eat the meat.

This does not stop horse meat from making its way back into the United States as unspecific “animal” by-products, “animal” meal or “animal” digest.

“Animal” digest is the ramains of pretty much any part of any animal (blood, teeth, hair, spleen) from anywhere (roadkill, shelter animals, euthanized pets and horses, etc.). Cheaper dog foods contain by-products and animal digest (see my post on dog food ingredients).

The only way to be absolutely sure horse meat is not used in your dog’s food is to read the label. Look for dog foods with ingredients like lamb, duck and chicken. The first three ingredients should be specific proteins. Avoid dog foods with unspecific ingredients like “animal” by-products, “animal” meal and “animal” digest.

The reason the horse meat issue came to my attention was because legislators in North Dakota are sponsoring a bill that could lead to the building of the only horse slaughterhouse in the United States.

A North Dakota plant would slaughter horses.

I know this is totally unrelated to dogs, but as an animal lover, the headline “Plant may slaughter horses …” in Saturday’s issue of The Forum caught my attention.

Let me say that I am not a horse person. I’ve never owned a horse, I’ve gone riding maybe five times in my life, and I’m actually a little scared of horses. What bothers me is that horses can be slaughtered in our country and the way it would be done.

The EPN describes on its web site the way horses were killed in our country up to 2007 when the last two U.S. horse slaughterhouses closed.

First the horses were hit in the forehead until they were (hopefully) unconscious. Then their hind legs were shackled and the horses were lifted into the air upside down to have their throats sliced.

This all happened after the horses were shipped for sometimes thousands of miles and then lined up into the slaughterhouses, hearing and seeing their fellow horses being hit in the head and bleeding, according to a PETA forum. Of course, this is how pigs and cattle are also inhumanely killed in our country, but I won’t even get into that.

I hate to think of how horses are killed in Mexico and Canada, which is where the U.S. currently ships its horses for slaughter. Something tells me that if you are going to be slaughtered, you’re better off being killed in the United States than in Mexico where horses are stabbed to death, according to the EPN (just do a YouTube search for “horse slaughter”).

In 2006, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an act to ban horse slaughtering. But it failed in the Senate, making it still legal in our country, according to The Forum.

The North Dakota plant would slaughter horses that are no longer used for recreation, farming or racing, said The Forum. Slaughtered horses are used for meat, gelatin, glue, pet food and leather products, according to the article.

I could not find any pet food brands that admittedly use horse meat. Instead, general words such as “animal” by-product and “animal” digest are used. This could be any animal.

Would you care if your dog’s food had horse meat in it? What’s your opinion on slaughtering horses, and should it be done in our country or elsewhere?

Discuss this issue further at’s new dog forum – What are your thoughts on slaughtering horses in the U.S.?

The photos are from a horseback riding trip I took with friends in Costa Rica a few years ago, one of the few experiences I have with horses.

For more information on what is found in pet foods, check out my raw food page which explains why dry food is unhealthy for my dog.

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  1. Becky on December 4, 2011

    The 2 issues that have been raised here, which I would like to comment on, are those concerning how healthy the meat is and whether, or not, the kill technique is humane. First, for the health part, if you are talking purely organic horse meat, yes it is healthy. But, the only “organic” horse meat you will find are the Mustangs. Who, of course, will be rounded up by helicopters brutalized and finally shipped out for slaughter. (Do a youtube search for mustang round ups.) Now, aside from the Mustangs, most horse meat, from American horses, will have LOADS of poisons in it. The worst being Bute, a common pain killer that never completely leaves the flesh of the horse. Then there are deworming medications, anti inflammatories, tranquilizers, etc. As for the humane question, it’s not just about kill technique. Horses shipped to slaughter are subjected to days of being jammed into a small pen, then a semi trailer and finally the slaughter house. They frequently sustain horrible injuries during this time, often broken bones, terrible wounds, etc. They also are not given food or water during their transport. If the plant in ND is opened and horses from FL are shipped there, the time spent in the semi will be without food and water. So, apart from the actual kill, humane or not, horses are subjected to days of suffering, prior to slaughter.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on December 6, 2011


      All very true, unfortunately. Thank you for the thoughtful and concerned comment.

    • Bonnie on August 13, 2012

      Just addressing your concerns about drug residues with a “Quick Note” on Pharmacology:
      So every drug has a half-life (t1/2) and that is the time that it takes the body to metabolize half of the amount of that drug given. Also every drug used in large animals(including horses) has a withdrawal period. The withdrawal period is ten times the half-life. 10(t1/2). It is not legal to sell an animal before the withdrawal date has been met. So if you give a horse 1cc of phenylbutazone( I chose 1 as a simple number to demonstrate on) after 1 halflife the horse still has .5cc in his system, after two halflifes horse has . 25cc left in system (you get the point so I’ll just list the next eight amounts so you can check my math, correct me if i’m wrong)
      .0019531cc Ok, so this amount here is what would be left in the animal before it is even legal to ship. Remember now that they most often are not killed the same day they are shipped so there will even be less.
      It is very true that drug residues are a serious issue. But remember that next time you pop an Advil for a headache…. they are also drugs and have a half life, and therefore you can keep dividing the amount in half as your body metabolizes it. So in the same way that Bute never leaves a horses body, Advil never leaves yours. Hope that makes sense, and helps put it into perspective for you.

  2. Invisible on March 6, 2012

    And this is why I hate dogs. Well, a big part of why.

    Slaughter woahs:
    1. Over 90% of horses shipped are perfectly healthy, loveable horses.

    2. The horses are terrified when they are killed. Would you want to die terrified?

    3. Most of the horses are 100% concious when they are hung and bled out.

    There are no pros. Try and make an argument and I’ll counter it.

  3. katie on May 9, 2012

    i love horses

  4. Hope on June 24, 2012

    This is bull S***. That is all I will say cause other wise I will head out on a rant. Horses are amazing animals who should not be sent to slaughter just because they reach the end of their racing careers or they can’t win any more ribbons. This world will not be fixed until we can have a pure, considerate, strong, and honest President. But that will never happen and they will just keep passing BS laws like this one.

  5. nikita on September 30, 2012

    The majority of the horses that are shipped to slaughter are HEALTHY, GOOD animals. They want you to believe it is only old and severly injured animals, and that it is all rainbows and butterflies when they are slaughtered. This is not so. These horses are treated horrible! Starved, beaten and drug by their ears and tails when they collapse from being weak. The once healthy and often loved horses are deminished to nothing more then a beaten, sad, skeletal form. They have emotional damage and are totally confused. They do not treat these animals right at all. People need to get educated, and we need to STOP this. Once you have seen a once beautiful creature belittled to such a state, with actual tears of pain, sadness, and fear in their eyes, if you have a heart, will completly change your mind on this monstrocity that they deam humane.

  6. Anonymous on October 19, 2012

    lol guys, ye all need to learn to spell!

  7. Taylor on November 20, 2012

    I was doing some research to write my English paper for my college class and happened upon your blog. I have a few false things to resolve, but I’ll start with a little bit of background about myself.

    I am an avid horse rider, trainer, and admirer. I have worked in the rehabilitation of rescued horses that have been abused for year on end, I have seen the miracle of horses giving birth a million times over, I have my own horses and love them dearly, I have more dedication to horses and their well-being than anyone could imagine. I taught myself to ride and train when I was 14 years old, and since then I have built up quite a name for myself. I train using only natural horsemanship methods (meaning that I use trust and “speak horse” language using body signals instead of force) My best friend and I run a therapy program for disabled children in our area (as you’ll see on my website). we also offer riding lesson. I have said all of this to let you know my extensive background of horses and the horse industry and so that you don’t view me as inhuman.

    This isn’t a targeted spiel aimed solely at you, it is more for all of the people who are misinformed on horse slaughter. (A lot of your sources were very biased and uninformed themselves) Personally, I am pro horse slaughter. I believe that slaughtering facilities in the United States SHOULD be reopened, and here are my reasons why:
    – Horses were slaughtered in the United States since the 1970’s and until 2007, when they were forced to cease operation because of budget cuts in the USDA fiscal budget (happened in 2006). For a year after however, the facilities were individually funding their inspections to keep the industry alive. Once the recession hit though, this became impossible too sustain. Until the slaughter facilities were forced to cease operation slaughter was a viable option of horse disposal.
    – In most places there are very limited options of horse disposal when a horse become too ill to keep humanely alive or when they are ready to pass on. Options include: burying (however most cities and towns and counties have ordinances that prevent the burying of too many animals in a small amount of land, in a city though it would e impossible to bury a horse); incineration (this is cremation, but the averages over $2,000- this just isn’t feasible for most horse owners); some places (though not very many) allow the disposal of horses into landfills (yet again the prices are pretty high for this option and most people can’t stand the thought of taking their horse to a landfill to be disposed of)
    – Another thought: horses in the United States that are unwanted are being sent to slaughter facilities in Mexico and Canada since our facilities are closed. However, in mexico and Canada there aren’t nearly the same amount of regulations regarding the humane treatment of the horses in transit to slaughter or at the facilities themselves. In Mexico horses are killed using a puntilla knife which is used to cut the spinal cord. This renders the horse paralyzed but not unconscious. This means that the horse is in pain but cannot move or scream in pain.
    – In America: horses are sent to slaughter on trucks where they can only be on board for less then 24 hours and must receive stops where they can get off the truck and have access to food and water every 8 hrs thereafter. Also, horses must e able to bear weight on all 4 feet, not be blind in both eyes, and not pregnant and about to have a foal in order to be eligible for slaughter. They must also be able to walk themselves onto the “kill floor” We use a captive bolt, the same process as is used with all other livestock in America (beef, swine, sheep, goat, etc.). This goes through the horses cerebral cortex and kills them instantly. Therefore, they feel no pain and it is a very fast process.
    – We do not use horse meat in America for glue, dog food, or other items such as. We do however use our meat as food for large cats in zoos (A large cat can eat 6-8 lbs of horse meat each day) and we ship our meat to other countries where regulations on the food supply aren’t nearly as strict.

    I believe in horse slaughter as an industry.

    – Think of where all of those unwanted horses are to go if we don’t re-open our facilities. People can’t make any money off of them and so they don’t want to spend any money on them. They leave them die from starvation and neglect in backyards, woods, and even in cities. I feel that slaughtering the horse, a death meant to prevent suffering is a much more humane option than letting a horse die slowly of starvation and neglect.
    – Horse slaughter would also make a large economic impact. Horse slaughter created a revenue of 65 million dollars a year and opened over 500,000 jobs- reopening these facilities would recreate these prime economic situations. this would greatly help our economy out of the recession we are in.

    Please feel free to ask any question you may have, I will answer anything that I can. Again, I am a horse person through and through- but I also believe that horse slaughter in America would be beneficial to the welfare of our horses and would prevent a lot of suffering.

    • Jodi on August 10, 2013

      I frankly don’t care for your opinions on horse slaughter. There is more than ample proof out there that horse slaughter is NOT humane. Not one bit. From transport to kill floor.Documented fact. The closure of slaughter plants did not hurt the horse industry. A slow economy did. Many industries were effected. Horse slaughter is still at your access if you want to ship them across the borders and 100,000 horses a yr still end up there. The same amount of cruelty will be and were in the past, faced by horses US slaughter plants as the would across the borders. It is complete BULL that horses in US would be slaughter any more humanely here than they do there. Horse abuse is CAUSED by the slaughter industry because no one in that pipeline cares about the welfare of an animal that is bound for slaughter, that is bound to be killed. The same is true for beef and pork and chickens. Cruelty is routine and is covered up as much as possible in all industries.
      As for creating 500,000 jobs??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME???Prime economic situation? I don’t know where you get your estimates but I will take that as a complete lie. Besides the jobs offered at slaughter plants are dangerous, low paying and in many cases the only people who take them are illegal immigrants! No one needs these monster facilities in their backyards. There are studies and reports that prove slaughter plant in towns increases criminal activities, from theft to rape!!! If I can find the link I will post it but can’t find it at the moment.

      You do not care about the animal if you want to slaughter it. WE have extreme over population of dogs and cats but we are not opening slaughter plants to fuel Asia with dog/cat meat because of it. If people did not breed inferior animals that they want to dump then we wouldn’t have to many horses out there.

    • gayle on March 18, 2014

      No way horse slaughter industry would provide 500,000 jobs. Those jobs go to illegals who torture animals and have far different culture than most Americans.
      the jobs are minimum pay, and FACT many working in slaughter houses, find them selves becoming angry, disturbed due to the suffering they see of the animals no matter if they are pro slaughter. Blood, the more blood they see, humans change and become more abusive to the animals who have suffered enough. Many felons need a job like this. This statement has been made the past few years when plants have been attempting to be reopened. Horse slaughter plants create HUGE environmental issues. Dallas Crown in Kaufman was an enormous cost to OUR taxpayers, while the Belgian owners paid like 5.00 in taxes. yes, they ruined OUR environment, and laughed all the way to the bank.
      So much of the horse slaughter world is illegals. Our own racing industry contributes to 40% of the horses going to slaughter. EVery one wants the kentucky Derby winner so breeding never stops. Times change, so many country people have moved to town, and no longer have horses,
      our country is usually in a drought, our hay is sold to China, ( why cant Americans think of our land and our animals)
      So the Americans are stuck with super high hay prices as the farmers want to grow corn for ethinol, and others make big bucks selling to China. and the rest dont want to work, they sell horses for a living to slaughter. Many people lost jobs, homes, and their horse got dumped.

      we are one sick society, and what horses endure for the almighty dollar is wrong, but the human race is just plain disgusting.
      we do not raise horses to eat them. PERIOD.
      Europeans slowly remove horse meat from their shelves. So those folks who wanted to breed and breed are now left with a high maintenance animal and want someone else to be responsible and care for it. Our
      society takes the wrong road, and dumps their dogs, horses that were once the family pet. If you breed it, you feed it. but animals are treated like a piece of garbage. far too much cruelty to humans and children ..

    • Jen on December 24, 2015

      Interesting perspective! It’s easy to get angry about something when you don’t have all the facts. I feel more knowledgable now (and less angry!).

    • Rob on August 21, 2016

      Sadly, and as politely as I can possibly put this, your full of it. You sound like a horse breeder who sees the abundance of horses as a threat to your profit margin. You claim to be a student doing research. I invite you to actually visit a kill pen, and follow the horses as they are trucked off to slaughter. Take pictures. Write a paper. Horses are sold off because 1) Breeders want to make more money by selling more horses 2) Unwanted horses are discarded even though they are perfectly healthy, sound and perfect for recreational activity or even as pets and 3) They may not be sound enough for sport or recreation but the owners can easily replace them and as you say, it’s expensive to get rid of a horse. Maybe you favor the fox hunters’ practice of taking an unwanted horse out into a file, putting a bullet through its head and letting the hounds eat it for lunch. Maybe you realize that this is far less horrific than being trucked for days through the desert without water or food and being killed by savages who would just as soon slit a human throat if there was a buck in it. You think I’m kidding, right? To come here and spout the virtues of raising sport horses for profit makes you look pretty naive, in my opinion. I have two horses that were literally one day from being shipped off to slaughter. The kill pens they were kept in received them as healthy, sound horses with no issues other than being discarded. After two or three weeks of neglect they were skinny, weak, infected with various illnesses such as strangles, and clearly neglected to a criminal degree. We tried for a third one who was supposed to be a gorgeous mover and a perfect recreational pony. She died within 2 days despite a heroic effort at a vet hospital. So keep spouting your economic benefit theory if you like, but the people that run your horse killing business are mean criminals who abuse the lack of government enforcement and torture these poor animals to death. There are laws on the books against animal cruelty that are rarely enforced, and the shippers can make a lot of money. There is a kill pen in New Jersey whose owners have recently installed an in-ground pool and drive a Mercedes. There is no charity there, only killing off as many horses as they can so that they can sell more fresh ones. If you want to prevent horse suffering, stop overbreeding pony mills and enforce laws against animal cruelty. And yes, consider the fact that your dog food is made from horses that may contain carcinogens and toxic by-products that are unregulated by the USDA because there is no funding for horse meat inspection. The abbatoirs in the USA were not closed because of the horror, it was about money. Around here, when people neglect their horses they end up in jail. They are barred from keeping horses ever again. That should be nationwide. Just like with puppy mills, dog fights, cat hoarders and poachers.

  8. Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 20, 2012

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I can definitely see this side. It’s been almost four years since I wrote this post, and my vews today are not identical to my views then. I don’t like the idea of any animal being slaughtered, but I do eat some meat now, and it wouldn’t make sense foe me to criticize the meat industry while at the same time supporting it. I do see that there is, possibly, a place for horse slaughter. I don’t like it, and I wish there were better options, but I do understand why it might be the best option.

    I guess it’s a difficult issue and I don’t know exactly what I think. I am also not a horse owner, and have never struggled to pay for the care or disposal of a horse.

    Thank you for everything you do for the horses.

  9. Flip on February 19, 2013

    I was raised on a farm and have had the smell of horse on my clothes everyday for 16 years. I think they’re magnificent animals that have helped humans create grand civilizations and so-on. However, during times of war and great financial depressions, families in VERY rural areas across the world would humanely slaughter a horse to stay alive.
    My grandmother ate horse meat as a child during WWI. There were rations and one had to do what was necessary to stay alive.
    I’ve eaten Horse meat prepared in a restaurant during travels through Asia.
    I don’t think that any government or entity should make laws or regulations about what is “ethical” for consumption. Taboo as it may seem, it’s not their business. We need to start realizing that we’re the only creatures on this planet with a working conscious and free-will.

  10. Dom Goomba on March 1, 2013

    As a kid in Boston, we used to buy horse meat at the local A&P. It was at the end of the butcher’s counter and sold for dog food. I bought some a few times, but when our dog got run over by a streetcar the feeding ended.

  11. West on March 3, 2013

    Why no dog food has horse meat in it is not correct — apparently there is some kind of sensitivity to it by certain breeds but I can’t recall exactly which breeds but I think it’s collies. Since most dog food is made for many different kinds of breeds, and there are many mixed bred dogs whose ancestry is uncertain, the dog food industry has eschewed the use of horse meat so they wouldn’t get sued by dog owners whose dogs were sensitive to it.

    The slaughter process does not start with the horses hit in the head until they are unconscious. For horses slaughtered in EU approved facilities captive bolt stun gun is used just like with other livestock. Captive bolt doesn’t work as well on horses as it does with other livestock because horse brains are further back in their head so they wake up within 30 seconds or so to find themselves strung up by their back legs and are bled out while they are conscious; whereas other livestock don’t wake so quickly.

    The puntilla knife is used in Mexican slaughterhouses which are not approved by EU standards and the meat harvested can not be sent to the EU market for human consumption. Some of the Canadian slaughterhouses use a rifle to kill the horses before slaughtering them.

    Another reason not to slaughter horses for human consumption is they generate huge amounts of adrenaline (also known as cortisol which is a banned substance) when they are frightened and the endocrine system in horses is so efficient that adrenaline is dispensed extremely rapidly throughout their system. Horse run fast because of this adrenaline – they are bred to run fast! I suggest you read this for more in-depth information about adrenaline in horses:

    To quash the myth that slaughterhouses are necessary to accommodate those people who can not take care of their horses anymore and need a place for old and sick horses – that’s not what the kill-buyers purchase to send to slaughter! They buy younger healthy horses. Keep in mind the beef industry sends steers not older than 3 years old to be slaughtered – anything older would not have tender meat and brings a lower price on the market.

    Here is a recent investigative report on a slaughterhouse in Canada owned by Bouvry Exports:

  12. northern lights on September 12, 2015

    Good info about int’l econ laws re animal products. Poor knowledge of Canada. Brush up on that before comparing it to Mexico.