Horsemeat holds a place of honour in French cuisine, but few eat it now

Consumption of horsemeat has fallen by 80 per cent in the last three decades as a more squeamish younger generation turns away

In a dingy Parisian back street, diners at a one-of-a-kind bistro tuck lustily into breaded horse brain, pan-fried heart of horse and broiled cheek, along with prime rump steaks the chef cuts from the bone himself.

Seasoned aficionados queuing at one of the few horse butchers left in Paris say they prefer theirs raw as minced “tartare,” pepped up with olive oil, lemon juice and pepper.

If the thought of having eaten Romanian cart horses in mislabelled frozen lasagne is making Britons choke, a loyal minority in France laments a dwindling appetite for a meat they say is a tastier and healthier alternative to beef.

“I understand people are upset if what they thought was beef turned out to be old Romanian ponies, but when horses are reared properly, it’s a delicious meat,” said Gerard Marin, 67, at his weekly visit to one of a dozen surviving horse butchers in a city that 30 years ago counted hundreds.

“It’s much tastier than beef and has much less fat. Young people today eat nothing but processed meals, kebabs and other rubbish — they don’t know what they’re missing.”

France’s taste for horsemeat dates back to when 18th century revolutionaries seized the fallen aristocracy’s horses to sate their hunger. It flourished for two centuries until falling out of fashion with a more squeamish younger generation. Consumption has fallen 80 per cent in the last 30 years and horse butchers are now a rarity.

Le Taxi Jaune bistro is one of a tiny handful of Paris eateries serving it.

“My clients know I take care to buy fresh meat and debone it myself, said Otis Lebert, Le Taxi Jaune’s head chef. “I never work with prepacked meat. What shocks me is the way food wholesalers are taking people for a ride.”

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