Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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badger any of a group of stocky omnivorous mammals, of which the European representative is Meles meles. Various other species inhabit Asia, Africa, and N. America. They are large, burrowing, nocturnal animals, with strong claws and a thick coat. The European badger has a distinctive striped black and white head and an average weight of around 10 kg (22 lb).

In Ireland, badgers have been eaten and cured in much the same way as we now cure bacon. In England badger fat has been used for cooking, and badgers eaten. Jaine (1986a) consulted some of the few written sources before cooking and eating part of a badger which had been mistakenly caught in a fox trap:

‘The badger is one of the cleanest creatures, in its food, of any in the world and one may suppose that the flesh of this creature is not unwholesome. It eats like the finest pork, and is much sweeter than pork.’ So writes Richard Bradley in the early eighteenth century while including a recipe from one R.T. in Leicestershire for brining the gammons before spit-roasting them. Waverley Root calls badger the food of eighteenth-century English peasants seeking more succulent fare. He is accurate in this, for it was by no means dry, and had a pronounced layer of fat over the ham. Where we differ from all those people whose written comments we could find is in comparing it to pork or sucking pig…. We found that the most useful comparison was to mutton. The meat was dark, succulent and strong-tasting, but in no way like pork, having a particular smell to it.