Japan Today



Raw horsemeat the secret to Nagano's No. 1 longevity?


Last month, the most recent demographic statistics (for 2010), were released by the government. For both males and females, the longest-lived people in Japan hailed from Nagano Prefecture.

For males, Nagano (with average life expectancy of 80.88 years) was followed by Shiga (80.58 years), Fukui (80.47), Kumamoto (80.29) and Kanagawa (80.25). For females, Nagano was followed by Shimane (87.07 years), Okinawa (87.02), Kumamoto (86.98) and Niigata (86.96).

As Nagano people are well known for consumption of horsemeat, both raw and cooked, Shukan Shincho (Mar 14) raises the question of how diet might figure into the longevity of its populace.

"The prefecture's mortality rate has been improved through campaigns promoting reduction of salt intake and eating more vegetables," says Hiroshi Shibata, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Human Arts and Sciences in Saitama. He points out that Nagano's daily consumption of vegetables, at 379 grams, is considerably higher than the national average of 301 grams. But he also concedes that the prefecture's residents, from ancient times, obtained animal protein from diversified sources, including locusts and other insects. And of course horsemeat.

According to Keizo Sawai, head of the Japan Horsemeat Association, Japanese consumed 7,461 tons of horsemeat last year, with Kumamoto Prefecture ranked first in consumption followed by Nagano. These two combined for 2,238 tons, accounting for around 30% of Japan's total consumption. But while much of Kumamoto's horsemeat is consumed by tourists who carry it out of the prefecture in the form of souvenirs, in Nagano it's widely prepared in homes as well as in specialty restaurants.

Geographically, Nagano is divided into three sections called Hokushin, Chushin (centered on Matsumoto City) and Nanshin (centered on Ina City). Horsemeat is consumed mostly in the latter two.

"In our area, when people aged 50 and over eat sukiyaki, it's taken to mean horsemeat and not beef," says Eiji Fukuzawa, proprietor of Echigoya in Ina City. "Horsemeat is not something special; from long ago people ate it raw, as steak or 'otaguri,' a stew containing internal organs, and also used as an ingredient in 'kimpira gobo' (a dish featuring sliced burdock and carrots).

"The meat sells for 400 to 500 yen per 100 grams, making it cheaper than beef. It was even cheaper in the past, but the prices have risen since Korean restaurants started using it more for 'yukke' (Tatar steak)."

The reason for Korean restaurants' change from beef to horse, Shukan Shincho explains, is that e-coli contamination is less of a problem for horsemeat, making it exempt from new restrictions on consumption of raw meat. Generally the meat is frozen at minus 20 degrees Centigrade for 48 hours to kill any parasites.

"Around the early part of the Showa era (from the late 1920s), Ina was a post station where farmers would come to sell draft animals," says Fukuzawa. "From around this time, animals that could no longer work the fields were sold off for their meat. When my grandfather's generation started up that business, more people realized that horse meat was a rich source of protein."

However, it was not until after the end of the Pacific War that horse became popularized in ordinary households.

"During periods of food shortages, horsemeat for sukiyaki was cheaper and easier to obtain than beef or pork," says Fukuzawa. "I heard that 'basashi' (raw horsemeat) also became more popular from that time. Perhaps it's because people in Nagano, which has no seacoast, use horse as a substitute for raw fish."

"Horse has one-third the calories of beef and half that of pork," says the Horsemeat Association's Sawai. "And its fat is no more than one-eight that of either beef or pork. So it's a healthy food that's high in protein with low calories."

What's more, horsemeat is rich in Linoleic Acid, which helps to reduce cholesterol, leading to fewer strokes.

As existing data proving the benefits of horsemeat is limited, a member of the prefecture's Department of Health and Longevity tells the magazine more research is being considered on dietary factors in the next 5-year plan for general health, which will commence from April.

© Japan Today

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As much as I would not really want to eat horse, I really can't judge them on this. It's the same as some people's aversion to pork for religious/personal reasons. Horses eat grass just like bovines and other herbivores which makes it a viable prey animal just like the others. I love cute fluffy bunnies, but I would have no problem eating one. Same with squirrels, chickens, cows, goats, and ze little piggies. Horses aren't endangered so there is no problem. Whales on the other hand are, and thus cannot be a valid food source unless they were more plentiful. Talking about plentiful, better ease up on the fishing and go fish farming.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

basashi is absolutely delicious!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Tell this to the Europeans who are currently up in arms about horse burgers. There's nothing wrong with eating horsemeat. All cultures have different tastes that others won't agree with.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Horsemeat from Kyushu tastes better!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Good news for all the Brits that have been tucking into their "beef" burgers for the past few years!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

On the way home from work, I used to pass by a restaurant with a sign that read "sakura nabe," which seems to be what sukiyaki made with horse meat is called. Never went in, and then it burned down some years back, so I guess I can't try it now. Basashi is found on the menus of some Tokyo restaurants and izakaya, but it's fresher and much tastier in rural Nagano.

Once I asked a horse doctor here if he liked basashi and he replied, "I never eat my patients."

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I eat basashi at every izakaya that I go to that has it on the menu. There is some really good stuff and some really bad stuff. Didn't know that there was sukiyaki made with horse in it, but I will certainly put it on my list of foods to eat in the near future!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

They eat horse meat in Italy and France. I eat here in Japan - it can be quite awesome.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Havent eaten horsemeat in a long time, we ate it back home, i LOVED it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'll pass thanks... apart from the fact that eating horses makes me cringe, this:

‘otaguri,’ a stew containing internal organs,

makes me feel ill... Someone pass me a nut-roast...

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Uh, Thunderbird2, unless you are an extremely strict vegetarian, you need to be reminded that some things you eat were at one time living creatures -- cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, fish, etc. -- and had to be killed and processed for your eventual consumption. Internal organs include heart, liver, etc. and in addition to being tasty are also nutritious. And I hate to be the one to break the shocking news, but if you eat hamburger, sausage, kamaboko, etc., you're probably consuming parts of internal organs (along with tongue, eyeballs, etc.) in any event.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I'm afraid I differentiate between animals raised for food and those NOT bred for the table.

I don't eat burgers and sausages... haven't done in years, in fact I've not eaten a sausage in about, er, 30 years. I only eat fish and chicken as far as 'meat' goes..

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I ate it without prejudice and didn't find it particularly pleasing. Nowhere as good as the raw beef from Gifu.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Surely there are more factors to take into consideration that purely diet...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I've eaten it, it was nice, nothing special.

I wonder just how much horsemeat people in Nagano actually eat, though? Enough to make a significant contribution to longevity? I'd say other factors contribute far more, starting with their higher levels of vegetable consumption, and the air in Nagano is beautiful and clean too.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

What a bunch of horse manure. They are not saying that all those long lived prefectures are horse eaters? If horse meat make you live longer than the oldest people should be in Kazakhstan. Probably the water is better.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Many variables are involved in longevity. Congratulations to them but I don't think it can be attributed to one thing. Beef for eating and Narita Bryan for riding.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I ate some horse meat just yesterday and . . . whoa . . whoa . . .whoa nelly!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

the next time you bite into raw horse meat, you will hear the neighing of the horse that suffered and died. humans should eat what is least like us.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Soy beans has 10 times more antioxidant then other vegetation so them must be contributing to longevity, so any meat will not be as useful as beans.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

basashi is absolutely delicious!

So are doughnuts, fried chicken, pizza, french fries, and deep fried anything, but that doesn't mean it's gonna make you live longer. The the title of the article ends in a question mark, which means it's probably BS.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Horse meat has other properties that are generally not considered in scientific literature. 'You are what you eat' is far truer than most could understand, and the virility and stamina of horse far excels that of either cow or pig (but not whale). That said, in terms of maintenance, nothing excels pig meat & blood: being closest to humans in terms of internals and blood, nothing is as biocompatible and conducive to cellular health & mood stability.

Horse for growth & longevity, pig for well-being.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Since it isn't a major food product, I would imagine that horse meat has less medication pumped into it than pork, beef or chicken.

This would make it healthier.

But then chickens, pigs and cows that are allowed to wander around and eat what they eat naturally are healthier and are better eating as a result. Most chickens and pigs are kept in tiny enclosures until they are slaughtered. And I've seen many cows kept in these conditions too. Since there is danger of infection, these animals are pumped full of antibiotics, etc.

As far as I know, horses are not kept in these conditions.

That would make the meat more delicious and healthier for humans to eat.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

People in Nagano are laid back more than anyone else, so they live a bit longer.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I once refused to eat rabbit meat, haven't had fish for over 7 years now....

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

KariHarukaMar. 14, 2013 - 08:14AM JST Tell this to the Europeans who are currently up in arms about horse burgers. There's nothing wrong with eating >horsemeat. All cultures have different tastes that others won't agree with.

Well, the Europeans are up in arms because it's a mislabeling issue more than anything else. France, Italy, Germany have traditions of eating horsemeat. France in fact is he world's largest importer of horsemeat. I know because that's where the US exports to, as we don't eat horsemeat. The British are probably up in arms because they don't have a tradition of rating horsemeat.

HonestDictatorMar. 14, 2013 - 08:05AM JST Horses aren't endangered so there is no problem. Whales on the other hand are, and thus cannot be a valid food >source unless they were more plentiful.

Some species of whales like the Blue Whale are endangered. But others like the Minke Whale, which the Japanese research whaling fleet has been targeting are not and very abundant.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A cow walks into a bar in Nagano.... Barman says, "Why the long face?" Cow says "Illegal ingredients, coming over here stealing our jobs!"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hmmm, imagine McDonalds. Horse nuggets. Big macs. Mchorse

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I ate basashi several years ago when brought by my Japanese friend to "really experience..." Well... certainly red and full of protein. But I'm sticking to my ramen, thanks anyway.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@ OssanAmerica

The British are probably up in arms because they don't have a tradition of eating horsemeat.

At last someone understands... thank you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

nagano also has high consumption of soybean products like tofu and miso and canned saba. that is the more likely cause.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The probable cause of longevity in Nagano is because Nagano used to be one of the poorest prefectures in Japan. They didn't have enough to eat and ate mostly vegetables and fruits. They couldn't grow rice so they ate noodles. The question is what about today. Will Japan still have longevity 20 or 50 years from now? Been seeing an increasing number of fat children.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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