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Nice to Meat You

I have a confession: I often feel very guilty about being a meat-eater. My two cats are the loves of my life, and the prospect of anyone even considering consuming them makes me murderous with rage. My hypocrisy becomes evident through the fact that I have no such compunctions when looking at a lamb, mostly because of the memory of sumptuous slow-cooked shanks for Christmas dinner. So why is lamb okay but not cat? This got me thinking about how society has determined certain meats to be ‘good’ for eating and others…not so much. In the spirit of that, here’s a list of some of the most surprising regional meats (that you’ll actually find on store-shelves) that I’ve come across.

Ostrich in South Africa

This one doesn’t seem too strange to me, but everyone who isn’t South African assures me that ostrich is not widely available in grocery stores in other countries. I’m not a big fan of ostrich meat, but it’s everywhere here. The section of the store where you’ll pick it up might not be quite as large as the beef, pork, or chicken section, but walk into any South African grocery store and you’re sure to find some ostrich. Probably the strangest thing that people don’t know is that ostrich is a heavy red meat – and it tastes more like beef or lamb than the ostrich’s avian brethren like chicken or duck.

Moose in Canada

When my husband first mentioned eating moose, I honestly thought he was pulling my leg. Then I went to a restaurant that had the option of an elk burger and I started re-thinking my position. Apparently, moose is a big part of diets in Canada – mostly in the more rural or remote northern locations where a supermarket isn’t just around the corner. In those places, successfully hunting the largest member of the deer family could mean that your family has plenty of good, nutritious meat for weeks. While I haven’t had any moose meat personally, I have been told it’s very much like elk, which I did sample at that burger place. It’s a little muskier compared to beef, but much leaner and sweeter.

Kangaroo in Australia

This one feels a little difficult to swallow (pun intended). To me, kangaroos are adorable and mischievous characters that seem more like cartoons than actual animals. The idea of eating one was as foreign as, well, a North American cutting into an ostrich steak. However, from what I’ve found out, kangaroo meat is a big thing down under. Apparently, kangaroos are littered all over the place down there, and culls are carried out from time to time to make sure they don’t over-consume the landscape and start starving and dying out. This kangaroo meat industry is evidently one of the most sustainable and humane practices when it comes to the world-wide meat trade. While I’ve never tried any, apparently kangaroo meat is very similar to beef, is highly nutritious, and protein-rich.

Gator in the southern United States

Okay, the above are all red meats, so let’s go for something a little different: the gator. Alligator meat is ubiquitous in the southern states of America, particularly in Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, and Texas, where gator hunting is legal. Gator is a strange kind of meat – with some cuts that are definitely white meat and other cuts more similar to red. The most common description of gator is that it ‘tastes like chicken’ with a vaguely fishy tinge and is chewy.

So now over to you – any ‘strange’ meat preferences where you live? Which of the above meats would you sample?

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Tayla Blaire

Tayla Blaire is a South African writer, teacher, epicurean, and (most importantly) mother to all cats. Tayla has been thinking (and subsequently writing) about food since she was a tiny tot after her mother taught her that measuring ingredients was for the weak. If you’re interested to see what Tayla has whipped up recently, check out her Instagram profile @tayla.blaire to see the recipes that she has lovingly filmed in her very own too-small kitchen.

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