Oklahoma's governor signed a bill allowing livestock owners to slaughter horses for food on Friday, despite an outcry from animal rights groups.
The bill, signed by Gov. Mary Fallin, lifts a 50-year-old bill on the slaughter and processing of horse meat for human consumption.
Supporters of the bill argue that horses abandoned in Oklahoma are already being slaughtered - many are sent to facilities in Mexico where their treatment may be inhumane.
Governor Fallin said that a facility within the state will provide a humane alternative for horses who are too old, or have been abandoned by owners who can no longer afford them.
"In Oklahoma, as in other states, abuse is tragically common among horses that are reaching the end of their natural lives," the Republican governor told the Associated Press.
"Those of us who care about the wellbeing of horses – and we all should – cannot be satisfied with a status quo that encourages abuse and neglect, or that rewards the potentially inhumane slaughter of animals in foreign countries."
According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 166,000 horses were sent to Canada and Mexico last year, notes the AP.
Horse meat was at the center of a food safety scandal earlier this year when several beef products, including Ikea meatballs, were found to have contained horse meant.
The US government lifted a country-wide ban on horse slaughter in 2011.