Horse meat back on the menu after hate probe

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THE owner of a French restaurant has told how he was bombarded with threats after serving horse meat.

Fred Berkmiller, chef patron of L'Escargot Bleu in Broughton Street, introduced horse meat to the restaurant briefly in March, and has just put it on the menu again.

Mr Berkmiller, 40, who was born in Tours in the Loire Valley and now lives in Edinburgh, said he received almost 400 protest messages.

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Some of the e-mails were of a racist nature.

He added: "A few of the e-mails were threatening and we were under the supervision of police for a while.

"We did receive e-mails from a lot of unhappy people all over the world.

"The police checked the e-mails and came in now and again to check everything was okay.

"I found that 95 per cent of the e-mails were from people who were misinformed and thought we were selling meat from old, worn-out animals."

Mr Berkmiller pointed out that the reaction inside the restaurant has been mainly positive, with nearly 40 portions of horse steak tartare, as well as a range of other dishes that British diners would usually associate with beef, served last week alone.

He added: "My job is to serve food and I think Scottish people or British people are really ahead in terms of food nowadays, and customers were ready to eat horse."

Horse meat was taken off the menu shortly after being introduced in March to allow Mr Berkmiller to find the best, reliable supplier of specially farmed horses in the south of France. He reintroduced it at the restaurant around a fortnight ago.

He said: "There are 12-15 farms in the region and the horses we use are farmed for meat.

"They are big horses for which there is not much demand any more so it is also saving the breed. They have happy lives in the field and are raised to meet food livestock and animal welfare standards.

"In France each horse has a birth certificate on which the owner states whether they can ever be used for meat.

"That's strictly applied so these are not pets, but as a restaurateur I also must make sure that the meat is not coming from old worn-out animals who have been sent to slaughter, so I had to go back to France to see for myself how they were produced."

Mr Berkmiller, who also owns L'Escargot Blanc in the city, added: "For me it is about being a chef and a foodie. Not all cultures eat cows, or pigs. Some people will choose never to eat horse, which is fine, but I have it on the menu because it's lean, tender, rich in Omega and people like it. We source the best rose veal, chicken, pork and beef - horse is the same."