Galloping demand for horsemeat

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Norwegians curious about how horsemeat tastes have suddenly sparked a sharp rise in demand for it at local butcher shops, despite, or perhaps because of, the scandal surrounding the horsemeat found in frozen processed food lately.

“We’re surprised that sales have increased because of a scandal, but it’s just fine for us,” Ole Jacob Erdal, who heads the butcher shop Slakterhuset in Oslo’s popular new food market Mathallen, told newspaper Aftenposten this week.

‘Tender and sweet’
He said customers have been curious about how horsemeat looks and tastes. “I tell them that the meat is very tender and a bit sweeter than beef,” Erdal said.

Strøm-Larsen, one of Oslo’s best-known meat shops in the Torshov district, also has reported a jump in demand for horsemeat. “Now that there’s been so much attention around it, customers are coming in who said they’d forgotten it existed, and new customers are streaming in, too” Alf Strøm-Larsen told Aftenposten. He ordered an extra delivery before the weekend, to make sure he had enough on hand to meet demand.

Andreas Viestad, who owns the restaurant St Lars at Bislett that specializes in meat, says a horsemeat tartar is the most popular appetizer on the menu. He stresses that the scandal “wasn’t so much about horsemeat as it was that folks had been fooled.”

Veggie interest up, too
Last week’s horsemeat scandal also is linked to increased interest in vegetarian meals, according to Norsk Vegetarforening, a national organization for vegetarians. Traffic to the group’s website rose 40 percent last week, and there’s been a 25 percent increase in the number of people contacting the organization, compared to February of last year. “There must be a connection with the horsemeat scandal going on in Europe,” Pål Thorbjørnsen, information chief for the group, told news bureau NTB.

Meanwhile, the local farmers’ lobby was crediting Norway’s high protectionist tariffs for keeping IKEA meatballs that were found to contain horsemeat out of the country. The tariffs on the meatballs produced in Sweden were so high, according to farmers’ group Bondelaget, that IKEA Norge produces its meatballs with Norwegian meat at a plant in Stavanger. An IKEA spokeswoman said IKEA’s supplier had guaranteed they were free of horsemeat.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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