Thursday, July 25, 2013

Grilled Lion Stew Meat and Ribs

The true test of our sous vide cooker was going to be lion meat. Anshu Pathak of Exotic Meat Market had warned me that lion was very lean and that it needed to be cooked sous vide in order to avoid being overly tough. I ordered some stew meat and he sent me some ribs, gratis, with the caveat that I cook them sous vide. 
lion stew meat
lion ribs
lion ribs (the other side)
The best laid plans were derailed by our freezer being ajar during a heat wave. We found the lion meat defrosted and Rachael and her newly acquired sous vide cooker were not available. I found the goat tenderloin to be wonderful and juicy (I'd planned to cook it sous vide). Maybe the lion would turn out better than projected.

I put olive oil on the meat and sea salt. I tried several pieces raw. Anshu mentioned he had eaten it raw and that it was pretty good. The raw lion meat has a very strong and distinctive taste. It was unlike anything I've eaten before, but I would best describe it as fishy and chewy. 

I put the stew meat and the ribs on indirect heat on our outdoor gas grill. Unlike the goat tenderloins, these babies really were tough. I would not say it is a lack of fat, as the ribs were actually quite fatty. But the meat is certifiably chewy. On bigger bites I ended up chewing a wad of meat and eventually tossed the meat after extracting the flavor, like a big wad of gum. However, when I cut the meat into small bites, I was able to extract the flavor and also get it down. The distinctive lion taste remained after cooking, but perhaps not as strong. 
grilled lion stew meat
I really enjoyed the rib meat, particularly. It was moist, fatty and had a nice flavor, but it was tough, tough, tough. I'm not sure how moist, flavorful, fatty and tough make sense together, but that is what it was. The stew meat varied. Some was real tough and some was a little more tender. It was not a taste I would say I loved, but I did enjoy it. 
grilled lion ribs
grilled lion ribs
grilled lion ribs
grilled lion ribs
grilled lion ribs, cut with view of inner meat
The only time I've had an opportunity to eat lion meat previously was at a firm retreat in La Jolla when the restaurant offered lion. I ended up getting elk instead and was quite disappointed with it - it was very dry. 

Anshu has generated quite a bit of controversy nationwide selling the lion meat. Restaurants in Florida and California that were selling his lion meat (such as in tacos) were picketed and pressured to discontinue it and Anshu was the subject of several national tabloid shows. This lion was raised in the U.S. and purchased at auction. It was not a wild lion from Africa. 

I have mixed feelings about regulations on exotic meats. On one hand, I support it when the animals are endangered. But I do not support it when the regulation is aimed at curtailing consumption of an animal that is only culturally unacceptable. The best example of this is wild horse, now unavailable for consumption in the U.S. However, horse is quite acceptable in other cultures and we have eaten it in Japan and quite enjoyed it. By making wild horse illegal to consume in the U.S., it has created problems with what to do with the excess wild horses that are captured in the American west. 

Alligator is an example of an animal that was once endangered. Breeding farms started to raise alligators and now the alligator is thriving both in the wild and on farms and the meat is quite readily available. It has turned out to be a win/win for the alligator and the alligator farmer. 

The lion is not an animal that will ever be marketed widely. The taste is too strong and the meat is too tough to ever appeal to much of an audience. But the legislation that has been passed in Illinois and threatened elsewhere, to ban the eating of lion, is based on violation of local cultural norms, much like regulations banning eating of cats, dogs and horses. Those who push those laws do it based on the premise that the lion is endangered, but that is lip service used to accomplish aims for other purposes: offense at eating lions in violation of cultural norms, offense at eating such a regal animal (bison is quite regal as well) and offense at eating animals in general. 


  1. Thank you for your kind regards. You have a good day as well.

  2. Lion is not poisonous. If you hate reading about people eating lion, don't come to this great man's blog!

  3. Please enjoy your righteous meal.