20 Animals You Could Eat But Probably Won't
Depending on your sensibilities and where you live, these creatures might be things to love, things to avoid or, yes, things to eat.
Squirrels are everywhere – for that reason they're one of the most-hunted animals in the United States, according to Mother Earth News. But you'll probably never eat one for three reasons: they're not that easy to catch, even if you're a hunter. Because they're so quick, they're hard to shoot decisively and you don't want to watch a wounded animal limp off into the woods to suffer.
Two: Even though they chatter and bark and generally make a racket around humans, squirrels can also stay still and silent for hours at a time, much longer than most humans are willing to perch on a tree stump waiting for them.
And three: Eating some parts of squirrels could turn you into a nutcase. In parts of Kentucky, eating squirrel brains is considered a delicacy. But doctors say some squirrels could carry Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, better known as mad-cow disease, which zombie-fies you by eating holes in your brains.
One more: Just look at the cuteness!
You most probably won't eat lion not because it's not legal -- because it is. It's legal both to kill and eat lion in the United States, though it's not legal to hunt them and then sell the meat.
Practically speaking, it's not easy to get, given that most lion is acquired from game preserve stock or retired circus animals or exotic animal businesses. Lion meat is expensive and most restaurants won't go near it (not even for tacos), especially since it's challenging to make such a dense, muscular meat taste good to our tastebuds, so accustomed to fatty, tender farmed animals.
But the main reason you won't eat lion is probably because it seems plain wrong, and not a little sad, to eat the king of the beasts.
Sure, they may be mostly shell and many varieties can kill a person with a single sting, but in China, fried scorpions offer a crunchy snack that reportedly tastes something like greasy popcorn.
What's more, they're plentiful. Scorpions are found on every major land mass except Antarctica. In some places they're native, while in places like Great Britain and New Zealand, they've been accidentally introduced by people. The fried arachnids – yes, the same family as spiders -- are generally sold on a stick or in bags for casual snacking.
They may be regarded as dirty vermin in most of the United States, but in other cultures, rats offer a protein staple.
In the Mishmi culture of India, women are only permitted to eat meat from fish, pork, wild birds and rats. In traditional cultures of Hawaii and Polynesia, rat was an everyday food. The cane rat has been estimated to make up half of the locally produced meat consumed in Ghana. And at least one variety of rat -– the beaver-sized nutria (also known as swamp rats) -- are eaten fairly regularly in the U.S. South.
Since fillets from the large rodent rival the size of chicken breasts, there are an endless variety of recipes, from Cajun-spiced to honey-browned to nutria chili and jambalaya.
Ah yes, those gelatinous, tentacled, often stingy blobs of jelly. Yum. Far from being just transparent objects of interest, being prodded by kids on the beach, there are many dishes that feature this unlikely ingredient -- even though the sea creature is 98 percent water.
How about trying sesame jellyfish, lightly sauteed? Or a jellyfish salad? Sounds delicious, right? Maybe not. Just in case, though, the best species for eating are thought to be the Rhopilema esculenta and the Aurelia aurita.
Walking through a park, you may consider feeding the pigeons, but you may not have considered feeding ON the pigeons.
Unless you're in France, where eating young pigeon -- called squab -- is not uncommon. It tastes somewhat like duck, and eating it dates back to Ancient Egypt, Rome and Medieval Europe.
Modern preparations are considered a delicacy because the meat is mild, tender and even has a berry flavor. We suggest pairing it with a nice Cotes du Rhone or Barbaresco.
Last week, the Montana House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow motorists to eat "game animals, fur-bearing animals, migratory game birds and upland game birds" that have been killed by a car.
In many states, it's not only legal, but encouraged. Check with your local game warden. If you want to eat roadkill, something recently deceased is preferred. Look for blood that has not yet coagulated and for hair that is not oily.
"Shopping" in the winter is preferred to maintain preservation.
The opossum -- commonly called a possum -- is North America's only marsupial. But its population is out of control in New Zealand, where it was introduced in 1837 to establish a fur trade.
Without natural predators, numbers have grown to around 66 million. Kiwis may want to take a cue from folks living in the American South, where possum stew and gumbo is on the dinner menu. Although it's greasier than a rabbit, it's not as tough as squirrel.
Cats are everywhere -- just look on Youtube! Seriously, they really are everywhere: by some estimates there are about 500 million domestic cats worldwide, and around 30 percent of U.S. households have at least one cat. Forget the "cat person" vs. "dog person" debate: Plenty of "pet" people love them.
Cat meat is eaten in some parts of the world, such as some provinces in China, a few towns in Peru and in some rural areas of Switzerland. But with so many cultures (going all the way back to ancient Egypt) having a soft spot for felines, the practice hasn't otherwise set the world on fire.
Sure, plan on releasing doves at your wedding, but don't expect them to fly too far before landing, dead, on someone's kitchen table.
Doves, and their close cousins pigeons (known collectively as columbidae), come in over 300 species and, due to their powerful breast muscles, have made for key ingredients in a variety of international cuisines.
Wild and domesticated columbidae have been a source of food since Ancient Middle East, Ancient Rome and Medieval Europe.
With all the news about how few sharks there are in the world, their endangered status and their importance to the coral reef ecosystems, not to mention the brutal way their fins are obtained: If there's one thing on the menu you won't eat, it's shark, often in the form of shark fin soup.
A sampling of 51 shark fin soups from 14 cities around the United States found one soup made from the fin of the endangered scalloped hammerhead, and others containing fin from vulnerable and near-threatened species, including bull, smooth hammerhead, school, spiny dogfish and copper sharks. In a few happy cases, DNA testing revealed no shark in the soup at all.
For many frogs in the wild, deformities such as this, as well as other skin diseases, can occur as a result of the chytrid fungus that is attacking amphibians around the world.
In some parts of the world, the frogs served to consumers are caught from the wild, depleting an otherwise at risk population. But the majority of frog legs served in the U.S. and Europe are shipped from Indonesian frog farms. Still, the vast demand for frog legs -- between 450 million to 1.1 billion in the U.S. alone and twice as much in Europe -- has raised international concern that the shipping practices of exporting live frogs even though most consumers eat only the legs, is helping to spread chytrid fungus among regional amphibian populations.
A little parsley, garlic, and butter -- or rather a lot -- will mask the taste of anything. Escargot, or snails, is traditionally baked with those three simple ingredients and served in its own shell, but don't examine your appetizer too closely or you'll notice its little horns and bail on the whole thing.
For such an ordinary little beast, there are several ways of de-sliming and cooking up snails. Some chefs toss aside the shells and prefer serving the baked gastropod in a wine sauce with cheese and mushrooms.
Sea snails are typically boiled with herbs in their shell and then served cooled. Just be careful when picking the snail out of its shell for any "off" smelling odor. They should smell like the ocean and herbs, not like rotten snot. If that's not enough to put you off, check out the ultimate cooking snail challenge, Tim Hayward's video on cooking African Land Snails.
The American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is farmed commercially in the U.S. and enjoyed in as a Cajun delicacy in the South, especially Louisiana.
Why it hasn't made it very far outside of that region as a staple meat is anyone's guess, but maybe it's because it's often served fried and there are cheaper ways to fry up meat than using expensively farmed gator: hog rectum, anyone?
Snake doesn't appear often Western cuisine, although in the southwestern United States, rattlesnake finds its way into chili and barbecue.
In China, though, snake meat is heralded for its health benefits. It's low in fat and light on calories as well. Snake wine, pictured above, supposedly helps with hair loss, insomnia and sexual troubles, among other symptoms.
Snake Chinese style might be a little easier to stomach for Westerners if it were made into nice little ... filets.
Try donkey milk and you'll never go back, some say. It has more sugar and protein than cow's milk. In addition to dairy, the meat itself sometimes makes its way into sausage, reports the BBC.
In some Italian dishes, donkey meat is a prime component. The market for donkey meat is expanding, in niche markets in Europe where gourmands seek it out.
The way things are going, you'll be much more likely to see a whale than eat one. Even in the most devout whale-hunting countries, like Japan, the population is losing interest in eating whale meat. Despite the Japanese government's struggle to keep its whaling practices afloat using taxpayer subsidies and tsunami recovery funds, the majority of Japanese would rather see a minke whale like this one in its natural habitat.
According to a recent report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), current stockpiles of unsold whale meat have increased to nearly 5,000 tonnes and are more than four times greater what they were 15 years ago.
And in 2008, the whale-watching industry generated approximately $22 million. You do the math.
You'd be hard pressed to find a better companion than a dog -- they're fiercely loyal, protective of their turf and loved ones, and just plain fun to have around! Hard as it is for many of us to imagine Man's Best Friend as a main course, our canine friends are eaten in a number of areas, ranging from some African nations to Southeast Asia to Switzerland.
And through history they've been emergency food in places such as Siberia and the northernmost climes of Canada, where sled dogs proved a regrettable but lone source of food.
This is just one of those things. Hardcore pet lovers would likely be aghast at the idea of eating dogs, but other parts of the world see only a subjective distinction between dog meat and other animals that are consumed worldwide, such as chickens and cattle.
Back in October 2012, a Florida man died after winning a contest to consume live cockroaches. Edward Archbold got sick within a few minutes of the contest's conclusion. Cockroaches aren't inherently toxic to eat, but they could carry bacteria, and it's not impossible for a person to have an allergic reaction to eating them. (Archbold died not from an allergic reaction but from asphyxiation, an autopsy later determined.)
Archbold was far from the first person to consume cockroaches. Even though they make people squirm perhaps more than any other creature, they are eaten in some parts of the world. Said to taste a bit like shrimp, Australian Aborigines and some Laotian peoples eat them raw or fried.
If we're to believe the cliché, human flesh should "taste like chicken." But unless you're unlucky (or lucky, depends which way you look at it) enough to survive a plane crash in the Andes (re: the 1993 movie "Alive") and forced to eat your fellow (dead) passengers, it's highly probable that you'll never be testing this theory.
Although cannibalism is frowned upon in modern society, the act of eating your neighbor was certainly more en vogue in some cultures in ancient history, whether it be for genuine sustenance or some kind of spiritual "enrichment."
More recently, isolated cases of cannibalism have cropped up in Brazil (human empanadas, anyone?) and Germany.