Eat Nutria, Save the Environment, Visit New Orleans

Next month I am NOLA bound for #IFBC2018! Not only am I looking forward to another great food blogging conference, I can’t wait to visit New Orleans. Or should I say, taste New Orleans? And yes, I’m super excited for gumbo, jambalaya, étouffée, beignets, shrimp po-boys, and red beans & rice, but what I really can’t wait to try is ragondin.  

My husband grew up trapping nutria for their fur but his family didn’t eat them. It wasn’t until our family participated in a few hunter pot luck dinners, that we discovered how tasty these creatures actually are. Still, most of our diet is full of other wild game like deer, elk, wild boar, antelope, wild turkey, waterfowl and other game birds and it wasn’t until our meat cache started running low that we decided to help a local farmer out with this terribly destructive, invasive species.

It’s good, I created four meals cooked using four different cooking methods from only two nutria. To be honest, I didn’t really want to eat them, I didn’t want to like it. Nutria are one of those “so ugly they are cute” kind of animals and here’s why you should give them a try if you have the chance.

Grilled Nutria Backstrap Bacon

Nutria Dandelion Green Scramble

Instant Pot BBQ Nutria

Slow Cooked Garlic Ginger Nutria

Why Eat Nutria?

1. Nutria is delicious, many compare it to rabbit or wild turkey in taste. It has a mild flavor taking on whatever seasonings it’s cooked with. 

2. Nutria is easy to cook, much like venison, but very tender. The best cooking methods are hot & fast (think stir-fry or fajitas) or low & slow (crock pot or Instant Pot).

3. Nutria is healthy. It has more protein and less cholesterol per serving than beef, chicken and turkey. It has the least amount of fat of any commonly consumed meat at 1.5 grams of fat per 100 gram serving. That’s 1/2 the fat of chicken and a fraction of the saturated fat beef carries. 

4. Nutria is clean meat. They are free-ranging vegetarians and scavenge on nothing. There’s no gamey flavor to the meat and they are easy to butcher at home.

Backstrap, hind quarters and front shoulders from two butchered nutria.

5. Nutria has fancy names like, “coypu” and “ragondin.” It’s served under these names in a handful of upscale restaurants in the USA and commonly served in South America. 

6. Nutria is free if you are willing to hunt them. There are no seasons, no permits, no tags, you only need a hunting license (in Oregon and many other states).

7. Nutria are a huge threat to our environment. They are an invasive species, natives of South America, they were brought to the US for their pelts in the late 1800’s and released into the wild when the fur trade collapsed. They destroy plant life by chewing the roots, eating only a small portion of the plant before they move on to another. The loss of wetland habitats threatens countless native species across North America. There are many resources in regards to nutria, and many opinions. The first one that caught my eye was Louisiana specific by Christopher Cooper. One published just a few months ago highlights the nutria situation in Italy.

And if you are wondering what they look like, this is my husband and our hunting dog with the bounty.

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