Some of the horsemeat eaten in Europe comes from Britain, whose love of horses doesn't stop it from sending thousands of horses a year abroad to be killed for meat.
THE HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE?
Fans of horsemeat say it is extremely healthy: low in cholesterol and fat, high in protein and omega-3 acids.
"I think it's delicious," said Caroline Roddis, a freelance writer who organizes Flogging a Dead Horse, a series of dining events at which horsemeat is served. "It is slightly sweeter than beef and it has got such a good depth of flavor it is hard not to like it."
Roddis reports a healthy interest in her London events, which draw as many as 50 British and foreign diners a night to sample the delights of horseflesh.
She hopes the "horseburger" scandal will make people think more about what they eat.
Officials say the source of the contamination may be a powdered beef-protein additive imported from Spain and the Netherlands to pad out the cheapest burgers, which typically contain between 60 and 70 percent meat alongside flour, water and other fillers.
"We don't really think (about) what we are putting in our mouths," Roddis said. "You go to the supermarket and you buy something that looks pinkish and has a label and you don't really think about where it comes from. I think we've really lost touch."
The handful of hardy entrepreneurs who sell horsemeat in Britain say the scandal has — paradoxically — been good for business, raising the profile of a meat few had considered.
"We've been very busy the last couple of days," said Paul Webb, director of Exotic Meats, a company in the English Midlands that sells horse burgers, sausages and steaks alongside cuts of crocodile, kangaroo and impala.
He says typical horsemeat buyers are "middle-aged, middle-class people who want to try something different."
"We've done some radio phone-ins, and 90 percent of the comments were 'I'd try it,'" Webb said.
But not everyone was convinced: "Some people say, 'I have a horse. It'd be like eating my grandmother.'"
Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless