5 New Alternative Meats

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Meat consumption usually means beef, pork, or chicken. Mutton and venison are common also. My favorite Indian restaurant avoids both beef and pork for religious reasons, but sometimes offers goat as an alternative to chicken. In the past few years, rising food prices and concerns about the environment are leading people to try new and different sources of meat. Here are five you may have never thought about.

1. Raccoon

Raccoon meat is cheap if you know of a local trapper. In Kansas City, raccoons go for $3-7 dollars each, and a whole animal will feed five adults. Preparing raccoon meat isn't easy or quick. Frozen meat must be thawed, then parboiled, then stewed. The cooking time is measured in hours, but those who have tried it love the taste. That is, if you can get past thinking of raccoons as vermin, roadkill, or cute little masked bandits. You'll find one reminder: trappers remove the head and three paws, but leave one paw behind to prove the animal is not a dog or cat. Image by Flickr user Michael Scheltgen.

2. Camel

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Camel meat is quite common in the Middle East, and is reportedly quite tasty. Australians are now encouraged to try camel meat as the continent's million-plus wild camel population is growing out of control. Camels are destroying the delicate ecosystem of the desert, and they burp huge amounts of greenhouse gasses into the air. You can find camel recipes if you look, but beware that some recipes are more serious than others. Image by Flickr user lemoncat1.

3. Squirrel

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Eating squirrel is nothing new in America. Just a few years ago, advice came from the University of Kentucky that people should not eat squirrel brains because they may contain a variant of Mad Cow Disease. The rest of the squirrel is fine, if a little stringy. Now squirrel meat is being promoted in Britain due to an overpopulation of gray squirrels. The American invaders are edging out the native red squirrels. Brits who resisted squirrel meat for centuries are now patting themselves on the back as they eat gray squirrel and do their part for the balance of nature. You'll find plenty of recipes for squirrel online. Image by Flickr user Darragh Sherwin.

4. Yattle

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Yattle is the name given to a crossbreed of yaks and cattle. Yak meat has less fat than beef, because yak fat is near the skin, where it helps keep the cold-climate animal warm, whereas beef cattle distribute their fat throughout the meat. First-generation yattle are the result of mating between a yak and a cow or bull. Male yattle are sterile, but females can breed with bulls, resulting in a 25% yak ancestry for second-generation yattle. Yaks, and yattle, consume less food than cattle, and produce valuable fiber to make sweaters. Yattle meat is supposedly indistinguishable from yak meat.

5. Kangaroo

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Kangaroos are both plentiful and meaty, with a low percentage of fat compared to beef. They are also less damaging to the environment than cattle. However, kangaroo meat is slow to catch on in Australia. After all, most nations don't eat their national symbol! Some European countries consume more kangaroo meat per capita than Australia, possibly because of Mad Cow Disease fears. Environmental groups encourage people to eat kangaroo because the animals do not burp or fart and therefore do not add greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere -strangely the opposite reason people are encouraged to eat camel meat. Kangaroo meat is used in sausages, stews, steaks, burgers, and sandwiches. If you have some kangaroo meat, you may want to try out some recipes from the Kangaroo Industry Association. Image by Flickr user pierre pouliquin.

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February 19, 2009 - 3:06am
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