For most individuals, the idea of eating squirrel may sound revolting. Such an idea brings up images of a post-apocalyptic world where you have to eat anything and everything just to survive. However, squirrel meat may be the future of sustainable meat-eating, as some chefs believe.
It’s no surprise that you’ll find these fluffy critters in many restaurant menus. Eating squirrels isn’t a habit that’s developed recently. In the United States, squirrel stew was as common and sweet as potato pie, particularly in the south. That being said, let’s find out if squirrel meat is safe to eat.
What kind of squirrel can you eat?
The gray squirrel can be found everywhere in the United States making it one of the most-hunted animals. They can be found in the bins at the local park, or burying nuts and annoying your cats in the garden. They can also be found on trees trying to get eggs from bird’s nests.
While squirrels can be rather amusing, they can also be a nuisance. Eating gray squirrel meat can help reduce their large populations as most conservationists believe. However, it may be difficult to eat squirrel because they’re not easy to catch and hunting them may require a lot of patience even for the experienced hunter.
Squirrel meat is sweeter than rabbit meat
There’s been a growing interest in unusual game meat, particularly during special occasions. Squirrel meat is very lean just like other game making it ideal for individuals having problems with their health. Just like the widely eaten wild rabbit, squirrels are abundant and low in food miles.
People who have tasted squirrel meat say it also tastes a bit like a wild rabbit, but its more delicate, and has a slight sweetness. This could be the result of taking nuts all day. Overall, squirrel’s flavor can be described as a mix between rabbit and chicken, but sweeter with a firmer texture.
Preparing squirrel meat
The most popular method of preparing squirrel meat is through slow-cooking. Their meat can be tough so it’s best to braise them at a low temperature for 8-10 hours. Others may prefer their squirrel meat to be fried. There isn’t much meat on a squirrel aside from the back legs and haunches.
Parboiling them can help to strip off as much meat as possible. You can then fry it with butter and some redcurrant sauce. Squirrels can be enjoyed in a variety of ways with many people worldwide making stews, pot pies, or barbequing their meat.
When is it safe to eat squirrel?
The warm summer weather makes squirrels great hosts for fleas, mites, lice, and ticks. To ensure that your squirrel meat isn’t contaminated with parasites and bugs, it would be best to hunt them during the winter. The cold winter weather won’t allow parasites to breed on the squirrel’s corpse.
Some squirrels could also be carrying the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, also known as the mad-cow disease. CJD can zombify a person by eating holes into their brains.
Eating too much squirrel meat may also inadvertently expose you to this rare fatal brain disorder. Such is the case of a Rochester man reported to have developed muscle problems, severe memory loss, declining mental faculties after eating a squirrel infected with prion disease.
This case is evidence that squirrel connoisseurs and hunters are more at risk of contracting CJD than scientists and doctors believed.
Squirrel brains are considered a delicacy in places like Kentucky. But with doctors saying that some squirrels could be carrying the prion disease, it’s best to avoid eating squirrel brains and any of its spinal fluids.
You should also cut out the glands in the squirrel’s limbs. Some squirrel diseases can be easily identified but others such as mange can be hidden. If you’re not an expert hunter and would want squirrel meat without the risk of contracting a disease, try a reputable restaurant that prepares this delicacy.
Benefits of eating squirrel
You may be wondering if there are any health benefits to eating squirrel meat. A standard serving of this meat contains more protein than that found in chicken or beef. It’s also a good source of vitamin B6, iron, vitamin B12, and niacin. Nevertheless, it has high-cholesterol that’s unsuitable for individuals with heart conditions.
So, is it safe to eat squirrel?
Squirrel meat has become a common cuisine in most restaurants serving game. Their sweet flavor and firm texture mean that it can be prepared in a variety of ways, particularly during special occasions.
To prevent the risk of contracting CJD and other diseases from infected squirrels, hunt them during the winter and avoid eating their brains. Generally, squirrel meat is safe to eat and offers lots of proteins and other important vitamins. The meat is also lean for people who have health problems.