A Horse Meat Butcher Shop ≈ Une boucherie chevaline © CHANT WAGNER 2016
If you spot a butcher shop in Paris with a horse head sign, it will be one of the last 10 or so of its kind still to be found in the French capital city. Once a staple of the French diet, horse flesh has become an exotic meat...
Still, as the return of heirloom vegetables on the French table thanks to the action of chefs indicates, one can never be quite what sure that what is old is not going to be new again one day in terms of what people think is interesting to eat.
Horse beef is a lean meat with a high content in iron well assimilated by the human organism, which made it be part of medical prescriptions in the 19th century and even in the 20th century. In the 21st century in France, a minority only are hippophagous. Of course, if you go to the steppes of Central Asia, horse flesh is on the contrary considered a central food, both materially and symbolically.
This butcher shop boasted not just one equestrian sign but three while using other cattle and poultry signs to signify that they had diversified their original trade of pride.
Maybe this is key to the survival of a specialty meat and the horse butchering profession : a focus, an unique appreciation for a heirloom meat, associated with a wider palette of of more commercial meats.