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(Albuquerque) (AP) – Federal officials have granted a southeastern New Mexico company’s request to open a horse slaughterhouse.

Officials also say Friday that they plan to grant similar permits to operations in Iowa and Missouri.

With the action, Valley Meat Co. of Roswell is set to become the first operation in the nation licensed to process horses into meat.

The company has been fighting for approval from the Department of Agriculture for more than a year with a request that ignited debate over whether horses are livestock or companions.

The decision comes months after Valley Meat Co. sued the USDA, accusing it of intentional delays because the Obama Administration opposes horse slaughter.

Valley Meat Co. wants to ship horse meat to countries where people cook with it or feed it to animals.

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