Eating Mister Ed
Eating Mister Ed
The horses of Leroy Baker: They're what's for dinner.
BY DENISE GROLLMUS
On a Friday afternoon, Leroy Baker stands on a wooden walkway above a sea of horses.
Sunlight beams through slits in the stable walls as he looks down upon the maze of dusty pens. The small ones hold groups of young steeds and mares. The larger pens, about 10 by 15 feet, are packed with as many as 30 less-desirables.
Baker frowns as he pulls back the cuff of his cowboy shirt, gazes at his watch, and shakes it. He's agitated. Today's auction is an hour behind schedule. "I'm all business about this stuff," he says in his farmer's drawl. "That's why people don't like me. I'm not a popular man."
His impatience isn't why he's disliked.
Baker owns Sugarcreek Livestock Auction in Sugarcreek, one of the largest slaughter-horse auctions east of the Mississippi.
He also buys horses. Every Friday, around 200 horses are put up for sale. Almost half are sold for meat to buyers like Baker.
Needless to say, it's not a popular trade. Though Americans will readily eat cows, pigs, chickens, and fish, there's something unseemly about eating animals largely considered pets. No one wants a Fido burger for lunch. No one wants Black Beauty for dinner...
...Those sold for slaughter go for $150 to $400, depending upon their heft. They're then sold to one of three U.S. slaughterhouses -- two in Texas and one in Illinois -- for 80 cents a pound. After the meat is processed, it can fetch as much as $15 a pound.
...Mindy Thompson isn't one of Baker's fans. She runs a foster farm in Alliance for Bright Future Farms, a New York equine-rescue network. The organization focuses on outbidding meat buyers at auctions around the country. It then rehabilitates the horses and puts them up for adoption. "Not all of these horses are bad, three-legged things that can't be used," she says. "A lot of them are just unwanted."
..."The slaughter facilities are designed for cattle," she says. "The horses don't die quick and painlessly. And they're transported all the way to Texas without food or water."
...Baker understands the objections to his work. Last year, he received a shipment of horse filets from a Canadian slaughterhouse. He served them to employees at his auction office. "They enjoyed it, until I told them it was horsemeat," he says. "One woman cried, and another gagged." [READ ENTIRE ARTICLE...]