. It is perfectly legal to buy and cook lion.
It is perfectly legal to buy and cook lion.
Let’s leave aside the question of why for the moment.
It’s illegal to sell wild, hunted game in the U.S., and of course anything on the endangered species list is federally protected. But the laws are full of loopholes and exceptions that make it legal to buy everything from camel to zebra to black bear. Some animals, like yak, are farmed. Small game, like raccoons and beavers, can’t be hunted for meat, but they can be trapped for fur; confoundingly, that meat can be legally sold. Lions generally come to the market from circuses and zoos. When the animals are too old to breed or show, they can be slaughtered for fur and meat.
It definitely doesn’t taste like chicken.
Most game meats are very low in saturated fat and cholesterol– lower than beef and pork and even chicken and turkey. When the animals are raised on grass, their meat is high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Lion meat, however, is not particularly healthy. Lions are strict carnivores at the top of the food chain; their meat contains concentrated levels of toxins and toxic proteins that have been absorbed by all of the animals along their dietary food chain.
You can buy lion meat in the form of shoulder roasts, tenderloin and other steaks, ground, and ribs. The meat is very pale and soft, but with almost no intramuscular fat it cooks up tough and dry. It purportedly tastes like pork with an added tang. It is definitely not kosher.
There are some better choices. You’ll swear you’re eating the best-tasting duck of your life when you’re served yak, or so they say. Antelope look like deer but are actually in the goat family, with a similar mild taste and fine grain. Beaver tail is supposed to be fantastic— woodsy and musk- flavored with meat the texture of short ribs. Try it brined, the experts say.
Which brings us to why.
Maybe you’re burned out on hamburgers and hot dogs from the long, grilling season. Or you’ve seen one too many bizarre food episodes with the Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain. It’s also possible that this is the start of a pendulum swing back from the effeteness of too many dainty little sprinkle-covered cupcakes.
Mainstream supermarket chains have responded to the popularity of game meats. Fresh ostrich meat and ground bison are butcher counter staples, and wild boar sausage can frequently be found packaged with the hot dogs.
You’ll need to shop online if you want to truly go wild.
[a disclaimer: at Gigabiting, we are deeply troubled by the treatment of animals raised for fur, circuses, and similar purposes. But it seems ethically unambiguous to eat, rather than waste, the by-product of these other activities.]
Czimer’s is known for the broadest and most reliable selection of exotic meats. This is the place for hard-to-find animals like black bear, camel, kangaroo, and African lion.
Alongside the zebra and rat meat, Anshu Pathak’s Exotic Meat Market has a selection of game meat hot dogs and bacon.