Randy Metcalf/Explorer Newspaper

WASHINGTON -- A New Mexico meat plant  received federal approval on Friday to slaughter horses for meat, a move that  drew immediate opposition from animal rights group and will likely be opposed by  the White House.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said it was required by  law to issue a "grant of inspection" to Valley Meat Co, Roswell, New Mexico,  because it had met all federal requirements. Now, the USDA is obliged to assign  meat inspectors to the plant.

The USDA also said it may soon issue  similar grants for plants in Missouri and Iowa.

Horse meat cannot be  sold as food in the United States, but it can be exported. Attempts to reach  Valley Meat Co. via a number listed online were unsuccessful.

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