Written by Staff Writer
The Brazilian trade in horse meat got a new black eye on Friday, as international consumer organizations — including the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization — sent letters to the country’s government saying the practice was “exploitation” of “worthy animals.”
On Thursday, Brazilian authorities announced they had shut down 14 meatpacking plants in the country for allegedly selling horse meat disguised as beef.
Brazil exported 495 tons of horse meat to the U.S. in 2016, Brazilian Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi told the state-run Globo TV network.
The U.S. is the world’s largest horsemeat importer. CNN Money reported in March that according to the Association of Ridehailing Service Operators in the U.S., the horsemeat could be sold for as little as $6.
Mozzi did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But on Thursday he admitted there was “a bit of a crisis” and a “difficult time” for the country’s food industry.
The 15 companies — a mix of export and distribution companies — involved in the meat trade are under investigation for charges ranging from the sale of horse meat to health, environmental and advertising fraud.
The investigation started after an informant tipped off Maggi’s office.
CNN’s Jessica Dinapoli spoke to Mauro Iverna at the Brazilian Cattle and Livestock Institute in the southern state of Santa Catarina, home to some of the biggest slaughterhouses in the country.
He says that there are two ways horse is sent to the U.S. — horsemeat mixed in with beef and, more commonly, horsemeat mixed with pork.
In the latter, horses are herded into pens before being fed and bred, and then slaughtered.
“A lot of it is going to the U.S., mostly because the U.S. could do with a lot of beef,” Iverna says.
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