Having tried one with some trepidation – I recall being similarly unnerved at the prospect of my first oyster – I can describe the taste as a cross between beef and venison; not bad at all.
No fudging the branding either, with the supplier’s horse’s head logo prominently embossed on the outer cartonboard sleeve. It also acts as an AR portal to all manner of positive guff aimed at encouraging us to become equine epicureans.
This isn’t some perverse Gallic punt on a rank outsider in the food chain stakes. At least two of the major multiples are already gearing up to compete with top-end own-label lines later in the year. But how has popular taste among les rosbifs shifted so seamlessly from outraged revulsion to dishing up roast saddle of mare as an alternative to the traditional Sunday joint?
“Good quality horsemeat is ideally suited to the English cuisine,” says business development director Avril Bouffon. “While it is often eaten raw as an hors d’oeuvre in some countries, our research indicates that robust casseroles and stews are most likely to be popular in the UK.
“The fact is, of course, that you’ve been eating and enjoying an inferior product for years but unawares. There is, however, a growing British ‘foodie’ demographic whose palate has been educated in the gastro-pub, and whose appetite for an adventurous dining experience has been whetted by celebrity chefs and the on-trend buzz from occasional road-kill.”
With earlier fears with regard to the potential risk to consumers from the migration of phenylbutazone (‘bute’) – the anti-inflammatory painkiller commonly used to treat muscular disorders in horses – largely allayed, and a marketing campaign that’s likely to endorse the meat’s alleged aphrodisiacal properties it’s a prediction that could well have legs.
The strategy to position the brand at the top-end of the market is in sharp contrast to the less well-received proposals made by a leading German politician that the EU’s horse-meat should be fed to the poor, notes food sector analyst Joe King. “There’s nothing like attaching a high price to something with uncertain connotations to whip up demand; look at frogs’ legs or fish eggs.”
The Horses for Courses range went on sale via selected retail outlets on 1 April. It is part of a joint promotion with the award-winning château-bottled Merlot/Syrah red wine La Soylarde de Moucheron as the perfect accompaniment.
Des King is a freelance journalist specialising in packaging. Send your comments for Des to firstname.lastname@example.org