SANTA FE (KRQE) - New Mexico Attorney General, Gary King, is now weighing in on the horse slaughter debate as a horse meat plant could open soon in Roswell.
The statement is a clear warning saying "tainted horse meat production is prohibited in New Mexico," but does the opinion actually make any difference for the one company looking to start up operations?
The AG's office says the statement is a chance to clarify state law, but the company looking to start horse slaughter in New Mexico says it doesn't change a thing.
In the statement released Monday afternoon, Attorney General Gary King said, "our legal analysis concludes that slate law does not allow for production of meat that is chemically tainted under regulations. New Mexico law is very clear that it would be prohibited and illegal."
The office calls it an "advisory opinion." It drafted the opinion after getting questions from New Mexico State Senator Richard Martinez about whether or not horse meat was considered "adulterated meat" (tainted meat) under state law.
"That points out what New Mexico law says, in this case, by the New Mexico Food Act which would prohibit certain kinds of chemicals from being in horse meat that's produced, manufactured, sold, whatever in New Mexico, it's prohibited under the Food Act," said Phil Sisneros, a spokesman for the New Mexico AG's office.
Sisneros says according to the AG's research, most horses in the US carry some kind of chemicals that aren't allowed in meat processing under state law.
"Our research showed that in fact it would under most circumstances, any horse in the United States used for food purposes, would likely meet those restrictions and a number of the chemicals that the FDA has in effect banned from the food system and our act in particular that therefore none of that could actually take place in New Mexico," said Sisneros.
While some think the tough talk could shut down horse slaughter for Valley Meat before it starts, the company thinks otherwise.
"It really doesn't change anything," said A. Blair Dunn, an attorney for Valley Meat Company.
Dunn says the plant won't be violating any state law because it screens all the horses it slaughters for any chemicals that could taint the meat.
"We have the testing and the procedures and the protocols in place to make sure it doesn't enter the food chain, which it won't in this case for Valley Meats," said Dunn.
Those tests are approved by the Federal Government.
"USDA is the authority on this, they have the jurisdiction," said Dunn.
Another state office agrees. The New Mexico Environment Department released a statement Monday about the issue.
- "USDA determines what meat can be consumed by humans, and USDA has their own definition of "adulterated." USDA regulates the slaughter of meat. NMED regulates the processing of meat (for example, turning leg quarters into steaks) and the service of meat (i.e. serving a steak at a restaurant).
- The New Mexico Environment Department has been actively engaged with Valley Meats on other matters within our jurisdiction, such as composting and discharge permitting. In each of these areas, the department has exercised its authority and will continue to do so as necessary."
Valley Meat Attorney A. Blair Dunn says it will likely be able to move forward with its operation.
"Because it's an interstate product, it really does fall under the federal jurisdiction and the state can't really do something to interfere with interstate commerce in making rules that are so strange that it makes it impossible to ship something out of the state," said Dunn.
"It's unfortunate that General King feels the need to politically grand stand on this issue, but it's really not his daily wick," said Dunn.
Gary King has announced he is running for Governor.
Valley Meat says it's hoping to get a final stamp of approval from the USDA in the next couple weeks. After that, it will be about another week until opening.
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