It’s hard to think about as a horse owner – your own beloved animal as slabs of meat.
We contacted a well respected horse advocate who has connections in Canada and asked what horse meat is actually selling for. In a nutshell, this is what we learned.
There are different qualities of horse meat. A #1 meat horse is about 1300 to 1500 lbs, and looks like a warmblood. A #1 is in very good flesh. Drafts don’t fit the bill for a #1 because they carry too much weight in bone. If a horse weighs less than 1000 pounds they sell for less money even if they are in good flesh. There’s less “yield” (usable meat) to skinny horses and it’s all about the weight they end up with when the horse is butchered, not what it weighs live. On average, there's about 60% yield on a horse.
Concerning prices for live horses:
The average contractor buying live horses will spend .28 to .34 cents per pound and that’s for a horse in good flesh and carrying less bone weight. If a contractor pays more than .39 to .40 per pound live weight they will barely break even which is why you rarely see a meat buyer pay more than $350 for a 1000 lb horse at auction.
Once the horse has been butchered:
Most of these contractors (the brokers who have contracts with Canadian horse slaughter plants) get paid “on the rail” or “hanging weight” which are terms for the horse after all the unusable parts are trimmed off and it is just the main carcass hanging on a rail in a meat locker.
At Richelieu, the broker typically gets paid .45 to .65 per pound hanging weight depending on the quality of the meat.
So if they have a 1000 lb horse they bought for $250 (going conservative here for arguments sake) and they got 600 pounds of usable meat, their profit at .55 cents (the average between .45 and .65) is $80.
Sounds low, doesn’t it? But it explains why so many meat buyers will sell a horse they’ve bought to ship for an extra $50 over what they paid. That $80 isn’t all profit; there are a lot of expenses getting the horse to the slaughter house.
And remember these numbers being used are averages. Some horses go for more, some less; some are unusable when butchered due to disease.
Conclusions one can draw:
Selling horses to kill is not a highly lucrative business. The 30 horses that so sadly burned last week were likely worth $2400 before transport expenses if they were all in good flesh. We’ve seen so many skinny horses coming through the auctions that it may be getting more and more difficult to fill loads with good quality meat horses. And these prices are for Canada, so it’s not too hard to deduce that Mexico pays even less, plus the meat dealers from PA have much further to travel to get to Mexico, which increases expenses. We’ve also seen the homes Moore and Rotz live in and clearly they are not living the lives of the wealthy.
Also to be considered there are many additional costs pulling down the dealers profit margin: feed, costs of owning and maintaining a farm, cost of a rig(s), insurance, utilities, paying drivers and stable help. Etc, etc, etc.
As noted in a previous post, a source who attends New Holland’s horse sale each Monday reports that Bruce Rotz’s buying patterns have changed significantly. In the past he never bought a horse he couldn’t ship to slaughter. Recently, he is buying horses that don’t fit shipping criteria, and interestingly enough, three different groups have quickly come forward and are marketing Rotz’s horses for him.
Finding an easy way to profitably sell horses that previously he wouldn’t have considered purchasing has probably been a godsend in this poor horse economy. And Rotz is just one of a number of kill buyers with partners in the perceived “rescue” sector. They and their partners are prevalent here in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but also exist on the west coast and in Canada.
We keep hearing a life saved is a life saved. When you stand at the auction and look at those horses it tears your heart out. But every horse that these kill buyer partners sell leaves room for another horse on the meat man’s truck. And the fact he’s making much more than he would have through these marketing programs allows him to either live a better life or buy more horses. Horses, again, that will never be marketed to the public because they are fat and healthy and their paperwork indicating they are drug free appears to be in order.
The meat man loses not a moment of sleep as he sends those horses to their deaths. The healthier the horse the better the profit. The horses endure a terrifying, arduous trip and heinous death, if they are lucky, and if not they are cut apart while still alive.
Who could partner with these people?