If you’re getting ready to eat, maybe you’d better bookmark this one for later. Or click on one of my earlier posts.
As 1951 turned into 1952, many Chicagoans noticed that their meat was tasting – well, different. On January 19th the reason became clear. They found out they’d been eating horse meat.
Federal officials had been looking into meat sales around Chicago. The papers reported that another state meat inspector had been fired for refusing to co-operate with the feds. That made seven.
The investigation had started with a packing plant in Lake Zurich. The feds claimed the “pure beef” shipped from there was actually 40 percent horse. The plant had processed more than 10,000 pounds of meat a week. Most of it wound up in Chicago.
Simple economics was the reason. In 1952 beef sold for 59 cents a pound. A pound of horse meat went for 14 cents. The feds had shut down the Lake Zurich plant, but other area packers were still under suspicion. And the Chicago mob seemed to be behind everything.
State meat inspectors had been bribed to look the other way. Any retailers who complained about getting strange meat were warned to keep their mouths shut. As a result, Chicagoans had consumed up to 4.5 million pounds of horse meat in the past two years.
News of the scandal had immediate impact. Hamburger sales in Chicago dropped 50 percent. Fruits and vegetables were suddenly in demand. Meanwhile, city food inspectors became hyper-vigilant. The world-famous Blackhawk Restaurant was found to be serving horse meat, and had its license pulled.
There was also political fallout. Governor Adlai Stevenson, a Democrat, was running for re-election. The parade of disgraced meat inspectors didn’t do credit to his administration. Though the governor wasn’t involved in the scandal, the Republicans were now making jokes about “Adlai-burgers.”
The horse meat probe led to several indictments. In the end, only a few people did any prison time. The Blackhawk reopened, and Adlai Stevenson wound up as his party’s nominee for President of the United States. He lost that election, but horse meat was not a factor.
And that sound you now hear is your vegan friends . . . laughing.