Who here has seen The Princess Bride? Do you remember the scene where Wesley and Buttercup enter the Fire Swamp but soon encounter a deadly ROUS – also known as rodents of unusual size?
Well, lo and behold, we’re here today to talk about our own rodents of unusual size: beavers.
These semi-aquatic rodents hold the title of North America’s largest living rodent! They can grow up to 3+ feet long and weigh more than 40 pounds.
I don’t know about you, but I would not want to face off against a beaver in a dark alleyway.
In case you’ve been thinking about munching on some beaver meat, we’ve got the scoop on whether it’s safe, where you can buy some, plus some fun recipes to try out.
To the Fire Swamp we go!
Can You Eat Beaver Meat? Is it Safe?
Yes! Beaver meat is safe, so long as it’s cleaned and cooked properly.
Beaver meat is lean and protein-heavy, making it a fairly healthy protein option.
Plus, it’s a good source of minerals and vitamins, such as B2 and iron. Frankly, it might be one of the healthiest red meats out there.
However, it does have higher levels of cholesterol, which is less than ideal for some.
Is it Legal to Hunt and Eat Beaver Meat in the US?
Way back when, fur traders almost drove the beaver population in North America into extinction. Due to the hunters’ thoughtlessness, lawmakers set in place regulations to ensure the beaver species have a long and healthy life.
It is difficult to find beaver meat in the northern U.S. and Canada, despite their prevalence, due to the laws in place protecting them.
Depending on where you live, you may need a license to hunt or trap beavers. At my farm, we had to wait until "open season" before we could call a trapper to take care of beavers taking down our young trees.
So, before you go out beaver-hunting, contact your local wildlife office and make sure you’re up to date on all the licenses and permits you may need.
What Does Beaver Meat Taste Like?
I can tell you this for sure – it doesn’t taste like chicken!
Most say beaver meat is a solid tie between grass-fed beef and pork. Throw in some gamey and wild flavors, and you’ve got it!
If it’s wintertime, the meat will be a bit fattier, due to its hibernation period. In the summer months, the meat will be very lean.
In general, beaver meat is very lean, as most of the fat lines the muscles, unlike the marbled structure of beef.
Some say the fat has quite a strong flavor, so they recommend cutting it out before cooking.
If you’re a hunter, it’s important to remember that the tail is almost entirely made of fat. Not a lot of wild animals have significant amounts of fat, so that tail could come in handy.
As for the texture, it can be stringy and chewy, almost like jerky. But if you cook it right (and by that I mean slow), the meat will become very tender and soft.
Where to Buy Beaver Meat
Oddly enough, your safest bet is to buy beaver meat online.
Even if it’s legal to hunt in your area, you still run the risk of eating a diseased animal, however rare that may be.
Unfortunately, beaver meat is rather expensive.
So, your desperation to try this gamey meat may cost you. Of course, if you’re an experienced hunter with all the proper licenses, you can always trap one and eat it the next day.
How to Cook Beaver Meat
You can cook and eat the backstraps, tail, and meaty legs. You could even roast the whole shebang and go from there if you wanted to!
However, with beavers, it’s best to separate the tail and body before cooking, as they have very different needs.
Some also recommend staying away from the liver, as it may contain higher levels of cadmium.
If you have a whole beaver, you’ll need to skin it and take care of the perfume-like glands before cooking.
One thing to keep in mind with the glands is that you may be able to sell them, depending on the area’s laws! These glands have a vanilla-like scent, hence their value!
When it comes to prepping beaver meat, the most important step takes place the night before. After skinning the beaver, soak it overnight in a salt bath to remove excess blood. The bath also helps to dilute the gamey flavor.
The backstraps can be cooked just like a pork tenderloin: spiced, seared, and then roasted.
You could also chop it up for a stir-fry or throw it in a stew. These cuts don’t carry a lot of meat, so they’re perfect for pan-frying.
The key to cooking beaver meat is taking it slow. If beaver meat is cooked too quickly, it will become gamey and tough to chew.
Why go through the hassle of buying beaver meat if you’re not going to do it right? When cooked right, beaver meat can be just as tender and fall-off-the-bone-y as a perfect chuck roast.
Smoked, braised, or barbecued, it’s gonna be tasty. Try any of the following recipes if you’re in need of inspiration:
Psst: Keep that meat thermometer handy. Shoot for an internal temperature of 165°F, and you should be ready to go!
Can I Eat Beaver Tail Meat?
Yes, but it’s not really “meat,” so to say. It’s basically a giant hunk of fat!
The tail is comprised of two parts: the muscular tailbone in the center and the spongy fat encompassing it. All of this is hidden beneath a scaly exterior.
The muscular tail is similar to fatty pork, so it’s best to slow-cook it and then crisp it. The flapper is more difficult to work with since it’s so closely adhered to the external scales.
Most recommend blackening the tail on a grill to help separate the two layers.
You can use it to add fat to any dish or recipe just as you would lard. You could also simply roast it on a stick (very much so like carnival food) and suck on that. However, it is just fat, so proceed with caution.
How Long Will Beaver Meat Last?
There have been studies done on bacterial growth in refrigerated and frozen beaver meat, believe it or not!
The studies showed that beaver meat was safe to eat for up to seven days in the fridge, as well as for up to 11 weeks stored in a freezer.
This all depends on how the beaver is killed, cleaned, and prepared. If the trapper doesn’t use proper hygienic techniques, the probability of bacteria sneaking in greatly increases.
However, in general, beaver meat will last up to one week in the fridge and 11 weeks in the freezer.
Whether you’re an experienced hunter or a curious carnivore, beaver meat could be your new favorite thing!
Although it may be a bit pricey, it’s always worth trying something new. You could fry it up, throw it in a stew, or slow-cook it to tender perfection. I can smell it already!
Whatever you decide to do, remember to soak it overnight first and cook it thoroughly.