Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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alligator an animal now better known as food than its slightly larger relations, the various species of crocodile. A tradition of eating alligator in the south of the USA, especially Louisiana, seemed likely to die out when fears that the alligator would become extinct caused it to be given protected status; but the tradition was strong enough to prompt the creation of alligator farms, where they are now bred for the table (besides furnishing valuable leather).

Of the various species which are found in tropical swamps around the world, Alligator mississippiensis is the most notable. Although its heartland is the Mississippi delta, its range extends from Texas to the Carolinas. It is usually eaten when young and about half its maximum length of about 3 m (10'). The meat is white and flaky, resembling chicken or (as one authority described it) flounder; it is thus suitable for many methods of preparation and cooking. It would still be premature to predict how widespread its consumption in the western world will eventually be; but the signs are that the practice of farming alligators will spread and grow to the point at which their meat is generally available.