Of cane rats, “bushmeat” and African food adventures


Yesterday I published an article titled “Let’s play Meat Bingo!”  I showed a mock Bingo card listing a number of animals, and invited readers to indicate which of them they’d sampled.  I added more information below it, including mentioning cane rats or “grasscutters”, which both Lawdog and I have eaten in Africa (where they’re considered a delicacy).  A number of readers commented privately that the thought of eating “rat” disgusted them:  so I thought I’d demonstrate that a “cane rat” is very, very different to the brown rats commonly found in the sewers of Western cities.  In fact, cane rats are being successfully farmed for their meat, an activity encouraged by the United Nations and aid organizations, because it’s much easier and cheaper to start a cane rat farm than a cattle ranch.

African food is simpler and more basic than we’re used to in the First World.  This is partly because of poverty;  when you’re living close to the breadline, you’ll eat whatever is available, because you don’t have much choice in the matter!  However, it’s also because of a different palate.  African palates and tastes are simply different to those of most Westerners, and different ingredients (and concentrations of ingredients) are common.  To give one example, Vicks produces cough, cold and flu medications for many markets;  but the company found they weren’t selling well in Africa.  After much market research, they came up with a new product, Kingo, with a massively greater dose of active ingredients than Western palates could tolerate.  (Both Lawdog and I have tried it, with painful results.  It was like being hit in the sinuses with a heavy, over-mentholated club!)  It was a big success in the African market for many years (although it seems to have been withdrawn from sale now).  More delicately flavored foods and medications simply don’t do well in the African market overall.

That being the case, Africans thoroughly enjoy their native cuisine.  That’s why there’s a big problem with bushmeat being smuggled into First World nations.  It poses a health hazard, having usually been killed or harvested without the normal hygiene and sanitation precautions common in such countries, but immigrants still prize and want it.

To illustrate some African foods, here’s a video about Nigerian food and bushmeat farms.  The whole thing is entertaining (and filled with memories for people like me), but if you’re specifically looking for cane rats, they’re illustrated starting at about 8min. 50sec. into the video.  (Look also for “something angry in a sack“, as Lawdog likes to describe African take-away food!)

Cane rat farming is so popular in parts of Africa that there are dozens of videos on YouTube about it, encouraging newcomers to start their own farms.  It’s profitable, too;  many people make their living at it.  Unfortunately, I don’t think it would succeed in the USA.  I say “unfortunately”, because cane rat is very tasty food indeed;  but I’m afraid it’d be almost impossible to overcome local prejudices about eating anything called a “rat”.

Of course, Sylvester Stallone didn’t have that problem in a future Los Angeles . . .



  1. I've seen several articles recently (last 2 or 3 years) about Africans bringing bush meat off various types with them on flights to the US. Forunately, it is already dead, no longer angry but still in a sack… For some odd reason, US customs doesn't like it…!

  2. Not gonna lie that cane rat looked really tasty the way they sauced it up.

    Dangit it's almost lunchtime and I just watched a video all about food. 😀

  3. Raccoon tastes like roast beef when properly done. Leave one paw on the carcass so your potential buyer knows it isn't dog- not that there's anything wrong with dog. Oddly, I don't recall ever seeing a single dog or cat in my few months out of the US of A.

  4. Looks related to nutria, which has been not been successfully accepted by the US marketplace as an alternative meat.

  5. Protein is protein, and I try not to look down my nose at 'alternative' sources. We are biochemically and metabolically wired for it, after all — vegetarians notwithstanding.

    Goodall's observations on chimpanzee diet and behavior are VERY enlightening in this regard.

    All that being said, though, there's a reason Africans cultivate hot peppers to leaven their meat with. It helps improve the quality 🙂

  6. Always nice to hear about the joys of bushmeat in between flare-ups of Ebola.

    KDT's always apropos essay about Africa sinking comes to mind, X 100.

  7. Oh, and let's recall that Stallone only ate rat as an alternative when "every restaurant is now Taco Bell".

    Words to live by.

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