In foreign countries where horse meat is consumed, those involved in the industry are following the legal effort by Cavel International Inc. to remain open in DeKalb, Ill., despite a new Illinois law that bans the slaughter of horses for human consumption.
In France, horse meat is sold in supermarkets, alongside beef, pork and lamb and is not particularly expensive. In Paris, there are shops that specialize in it, some of which have images of golden horses' heads on their exterior.
Timothe Masson, a representative from Interbev Equins, an organization of horse meat sector industries in France, said 81 percent of horse meat consumed in France was imported in 2005. About 35 percent came from the United States.
"We're looking to other countries such as Canada, Argentina and Brazil to make up for the loss of supply," he said.
Masson said he wondered what would become of the horses previously bought by American slaughterhouses.
"Will they be abandoned in the fields? It is very expensive to keep a horse alive you know," he said.
In Belgium, many adults remember eating it as a regular staple at home during their youth. It is still popular around the capital Brussels, a region that used to be known for its sturdy local carthorses, which were turned into steaks after their ploughing days were over.
Belgians also turn horse meat into stews cooked in beer or vinegar with onions and carrots, and an array of sausages and smoked hams.
De Kuiper restaurant in Vilvoorde just north of Brussels has long been a classic for connoisseurs of horse meat. Amid the wooden paneling and aging pictures of burly draughthorses, it has served horse meat since 1859.
But chef and owner Alfons Gulickx said he is feeling the pinch from the U.S. market drying up. He buys much of his horse meat from South America, but he said prices are rising and supplies are dwindling.
"Everything is getting more expensive and I need my kilos every day," he said.
He still sells his horse steaks broiled in their own fat for approximately $20, but said he might have to raise prices soon. At his restaurant, he still has horse meat lovers every shift.
"Little wonder, you only have to see how healthy it is," he said. "If you want to eat healthily, you will end up with horse meat. It is rich in iron, glucose and has the right fats."
Japanese diners also eat horse meat. Norio Yoshihara is CEO of Newbridge Inc., a trading company that sells U.S. horse meat to about 200 restaurants in Tokyo.
Yoshihara said he recently started importing horse meat from Mexico and will be looking into Australia and New Zealand as legal challenges restrict the flow of meat from the U.S.
Yoshihara said animal rights groups seem to focus their efforts on "cute animals, and now they say tunas are too pretty and whales are too intelligent to consume. If we keep going down this list, Japanese people will have less and less food to eat."
"American people tend to think that their standards are global standards," he said. "I do find it a bit offensive to be told by the United States (not to eat horse meat). We can also say that it's cruel to eat pigs and cows."