South African Dried Meat
Recently, a colleague of my husband traveled on business to Botswana Africa where he had the opportunity to eat a traditional South African dried meat called “Biltong”. Rooibok (kangaroo and Ibok) , Krokkedil (crocodile) Giraffe, Hippo and Kudu; were all on the menu, add to that a bit of lion meat and dinner was served.
The Dutch settlers who arrived in South Africa in the 17th century brought recipes for dried meat from Europe. Many different types of meat are used to produce it, ranging from beef through game meats to fillets of ostrich from commercial farms. It is typically made from raw fillets of meat cut into strips following the grain of the muscle, or flat pieces sliced across the grain. It is similar to beef jerky in that they are both spiced, dried meats, but differ in their typical ingredients, taste and production process. The word biltong is from the Dutch bil ("rump") and tong ("strip" or "tongue").
The word “game” is used loosely in the Wikipedia definition of Biltong, as well as most other sources defining and illustrating Biltong. This is where my personal experience meets Biltong for the first time and when my inner voice beckons to be heard.
I have no issues with most of the meats used to make Biltong but when faced with the offer to eat Biltong made with lion meat, I was filled a strange queasy feeling and believed that I might be committing an unpardonable sin. From that moment I’ve been grappling with this question; where do I draw the line when it comes to eating animal meat?
The non-meat eaters of this world have already taken a stand on this issue and have drawn the line for themselves when it comes to eating warm blooded creatures. I have many Vegan and Vegetarian friends who have challenged me about being a carnivore. After many heated discussions, I’ve often pondered my abilities to eat Gods creatures so easily. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a true carnivore. I love all manner of meats and have even been known to eat beef and fowl livers as well as hearts and gizzards, raw fish and the list goes on and on. My inner voice has always brought me back to the same answer; God gave us certain creatures to sustain our hunger and feed the population and some creatures to nourish our souls with love and companionship. Without regret and satisfied with my belief, I’ve cooked and eaten animal meat with flair and gusto and have loved my pets with the same passion as the meat I eat.
How is it that I will eat all manner of meat without flinching and when given the opportunity to eat Biltong made with lion meat I was stopped dead in my tracks?
We’ve all seen travel and cooking shows such as Andrew Zimmern’s Bizzare Foods and Anthony Bourdain’s No reservations, where the consumption of exotic and strange foods are embraced. As far as I can see, neither of these gentlemen are filled with guilt or ravaged by shame after eating myriads of bugs, worms, or five thousand year old baby chickens. Lips smacking and finger licking good, they both are paid the big bucks to explore the extraordinary.
Customs, social morays, cultural diversity, are the makings of our attitudes toward what we’re willing to put in our mouths and call food! I don’t believe we can judge or force our beliefs on others unless we base our judgments on mitigating facts. I hoped to find the mitigating facts about the legitimacy of eating lion meat to quell my guilt, so off to the World Wide Web to find some answers.
1. Are lions on the endangered species list? The African lion (Panthera leo) has been listed as Vulnerable since 2004, since it's wild population has declined by 30% to 50% in the last 20 years. "Vulnerable" means that there's a good chance that it will become endangered if the population keeps trending the way it is now, but it's not endangered yet. However, there are some lions for certain regions that are endangered.
2. Is it illegal to hunt and eat lion meat? The African lion (panthera leo) is protected under Appendix II, which allows commercial trade as long as it does not harm a species' survival.2
With my curiosity overflowing and armed with the knowledge that lions are not “yet” endangered, I accepted the offer to try a piece of Lion Meat, Biltong; a haunting voice filled my head as I lifted the meat to my mouth…”NO Reservation” ...Anthony…get out of my head!!!
I started first with the Giraffe, then the Roobok, Hippo and Kudo. They all tasted similar to our American version of beef jerky but the Giraffe was tough and dry. The Kudo, Roobok and Hippo were moister and the textures were similar to a steak that had been dried in the sun. I didn’t detect any gaminess in any of these varieties.
I saved the lion Bilton for last. It was marbled with pieces of fat and shimmered with oil when sliced, it smelled of earthiness, an almost herbal quality. It was delicious! The texture was oily but full in herbal flavors. The meat tasted similar to elk, with the same distinct dark red color.
Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your personal views, I was unable to finish my piece of dried lion meat, as thoughts of the majestic beast rumbled around in my brain.
Fellow carnivores, where do you draw the line when eating exotic animal flesh? I would love to hear you thoughts and opinions…please be gentle with me!!!
Cat Specialist Group 2000. Panthera leo ssp. persica. In: IUCN 2007. 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Bauer, H. & Nowell, K. 2004. Panthera leo. In: IUCN 2007. 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
I want to thank you all for your kind comments about this article.
I was worried about the reaction I would get from readers, especially non- meat eaters! I've been please with your responses! Thank YOU!!!
Magic of Spice, I really appreciate your openness to the content of the article. Much appreciation♥
Christi, I eat jerky so this wasn't too much of a departure from what I'm used to. I'm sure you'd be surprised how good each of the varieties tastes and I'm thrilled you'd like to try just a tiny bite! Very Brave!
Happy Days to each of you♥
Magic of Spice
Excellent post! I do not eat meat, but the information here is amazing 🙂
I am not a jerky fan so on that reason alone I might not like the taste. That being said I totally would take a little bitty bite just to see. I don't have a problem eating lion - as long as it is hunted legally and is not endangering the animal.
All Our Fingers in the Pie
I am with you. I would have a tough time with lion. You have some great recipes and ideas. Thanks for visiting my blog and introducing yourself.
Kitchen Flavours, It's funny that you say you're not an adventurous eater...you eat meats that I don't! I don't like mutton, or lamb at all. Sounds crazy I know, but I've never been able to get past the strong taste. I also, have a difficult time eating goat and sheep cheeses. I have a few favorites but very few!
Angie, It took a lot for me to try the lion meat, it wasn't just a taste issue, it really was difficult to get past the idea that I was eating a giant cat.
I'm not that adventurous when it comes to exotic meat. The only meat I eat are poultry, pork, lamb, mutton, venison and fish. That's about it!
Kangaroo, corcodile, giraffe, hippo, kudu, lion....oh man..you are an adventurous foodie. I don't think I would have courage to eat that dried lion meat.
Hey girlichef, I'm so glad I'm not the only one who is willing to try something new an daring! It's funny that in all the years that I've been cooking and eating you'd think I would've heard of Biltong! I'm always willing to try new things but I'm still not willing to eat any worms, crickets or the like♥
Insanity!! This is such a cool post...I can't really imagine eating any of that meat...but for sure I'd try it if it was in front of me! How daring =)