A third application, from a company in Gallatin, Missouri, is pending.
The last U.S. horse-meat plant closed six years ago after Congress banned funding for inspections for such facilities. That ban lapsed in 2011 and measures to renew it are before lawmakers.
The USDA said in a statement that, unless Congress renews the ban, the agency is required to issue a grant of inspection and provide inspectors that would enable the facilities to operate.
“The Administration has requested Congress to reinstate the ban on horse slaughter,” said USDA spokeswoman Michelle Saghafi, in an e-mail. “Until Congress acts, the Department must continue to comply with current law.”
Horse slaughter has been an emotional issue among animal-welfare advocates in the U.S., where eating of horse meat is rare and surveys show most Americans oppose the practice. Many farmers and ranchers say humane slaughter is necessary
to dispose of unwanted animals.