Are you tired of the usual restaurant and fast food fare? Do you want to try something beyond the ordinary home-cooked meal? If you are the adventurous type, maybe you can try some of the world’s most exotic foods: haggis from Scotland, raw cobra heart from Vietnam, balut from the Philippines, pufferfish from Japan, tarantula from Cambodia, or monkey brain from China. But why go overseas when you can have something different without leaving the country? Why not try a rat?
Yes, rats. Before you go retching into the sink and putting off reading this article, hear us out. Yes, rats and other rodents can be used as food. In fact, rodents make up a significant part of humans’ wild game consumption from many cultures.
If not for the stigma that rats and other rodents bring destruction to lives and property as well as disease, we think that people from this side of the world would be fine with eating rats. Why not, when rats are abundant, easy to find and catch, and are said to be quite tasty too? Not only that, but rodents are also rich in protein and other amino acids that are helpful for the human diet.
It is not a secret that rats can damage crops, especially to crops, which is why farmers in agricultural areas like Laos, Myanmar, Mozambique, Cameroon, India, and the Amazon have taken to killing these pests and cooking them – hitting two birds in one stone. While eating rats have not solved the problem with crop loss, the practice of eating them somehow helps compensate for the value of the lost crops. Because any hunting law does not cover rodents, it makes perfect sense to hunt them for food, especially in areas where they can be found in populous quantities. Besides this, most rodent species are small enough to be consumed in one sitting, so they do not have to be refrigerated, salted, dried, or cured, making them ideal for preparing and eating.
Rats do not just help augment food on the table – they are also used for special ceremonies. In northeast India, the Adi tribe holds a festival featuring rats cooked in different ways as the center of the celebration. The Adi tribe also gives children two dead rats in the morning of the festival as a gift, similar to the gifts you used to receive on Christmas morning as a kid. The tribe also uses dead rats as a send-off gift for a woman getting married, signifying the bride’s family’s blessing. Rats are used in religious ceremonies of other cultures, while some others hold rats to have medicinal purposes. They are even considered as a delicacy in some parts of the world.
How long has man been eating rodents?
Peruvians have been reported to be eating guinea pigs since 2500 B.C., while people in Brazil have been said to be domesticating and eating capybaras since 1565 A.D. The Chinese have been eating the common rat and the bamboo rat during the reign of the Tang Dynasty, while early Romans made dormouse eating popular in the second century. Rat eating was introduced in Polynesia in the 16th century.
Today, squirrel, a different rodent species, is considered one of the most important game animals in the U.S. So when you get right down to it, eating rodents is not really such a weird thing.
Fancy a bite?
In 2012, North Carolina artist Laura Ginn Bailey took rat eating to gourmet heights. She organized a five-course dinner with rats as the star ingredient, as part of her Tomorrow We will Feast Again art exhibit in Allegra La Viola Gallery in New York. A vegetarian before the event, Laura Ginn Bailey butchered, skinned, and prepared the rats herself, with the help of Chef Yuri Hart. The artist also used the rats’ pelt to make herself a cocktail dress, which she wore to the event.
Curious about how rat tastes? Here are some things you can expect as you partake of a meal made of rat.
The smell. No matter how clean they are, rats will always smell like the rodents that they are. It is a distinctive smell akin to urine, although some would say that the smell reminds them of warm tortillas. This scent is due to the oil that rats secrete onto their skin. While skinning and cooking rats would diminish the odor, you can still detect a hint of smell from the meat.
The taste. Rats have a distinctive taste, much like their smell. Pungent and gamey, they taste like rabbit or raccoon. To the least discerning, it won’t be easy to distinguish their taste when blended with other meats. In Laos, however, farmers can distinguish different rodent species according to the way they taste.
The appearance. Raw rat meat looks a lot like a lamb because both have a pinkish to red color when skinned. However, rat meat can look just like any type of meat when ground – something that is quite notorious in China. While some Chinese enjoy rat meat, not everyone is happy to know that they are being tricked into eating rats. Cooked rat meat is somehow similar to rabbit meat.
Eating rats may not be a popular thing right now. Still, as more adventurous conceptualizers like Bailey and cooks like Yuri Hart come forward, it probably won’t be long until rodent eating (clean and crop-fed rodents at least) becomes an acceptable practice in more locations, the United States included.
Noah Thompson is an expert in rat relief, providing invaluable tips and advice on effective rat control. With extensive knowledge in rodent behavior, he simplifies complex concepts, empowering readers to confidently tackle rat infestations. Through workshops and seminars, Noah equips communities with practical skills while advocating for humane treatment and control of rats.