So you’re an expert in all things seafood. You’ve seared swordfish steaks, luxuriated with lobster, tasted terrific tuna, and made many a morsel of mackerel.
You might wonder where to find your next seafood adventure. Will you try a rare treat like pufferfish, a lesser-known luxury like red drum, or do you want something even more exotic? Can you eat manatee?
Whether this describes you or you’re simply curious about what it’s like to taste test this interesting marine animal, this article has all the answers you need. Ready to dive into the mysterious world of manatee cuisine? Read on!
Table of Contents
Do People Eat Manatee and Is It Safe?
Eating manatee is complicated due to local laws governing its consumption (more on that in a moment). But that said, it is perfectly safe as a food source.
However, the question of whether people do eat manatees is complicated. Indigenous communities across the Caribbean and Gulf coasts of North America have hunted and eaten manatee for centuries.
However, manatees experienced severe depopulation in the nineteenth century, and certain localities passed laws banning the hunting and consumption of manatees.
In the United States, manatees have been protected by a suite of laws by the federal government and in the state of Florida.
What Does It Taste Like?
Manatee meat is an incredibly unique culinary experience because it cannot be said to have one singular “taste,” even when you’re talking about one single manatee. Instead, different parts have different flavors.
Anthropological research has indicated that communities that consume manatee, especially those on the Atlantic and Caribbean Coast, often subcategorize manatee meat. Some of the meat has a flavor and texture akin to beef, while other cuts are similar to pork, chicken, or fish.
Can You Eat Manatee Raw?
Manatee is typically not eaten raw. That is because they are mammals, meaning their fatty raw meat is not very appetizing (unlike fish).
How To Cook Manatee
Although possessing manatee meat is illegal in jurisdictions like Florida, many marine meat connoisseurs have still developed recipes for cooking manatee.
When it comes to fattier cuts, manatee cooks often chop the meat, roll it into balls, and fry it. The meat on the belly side of the animal, which is more similar to pork, tastes delicious when cooks season it and smoke it for several hours.
In other cases, a cook might cut the meat from the animal’s back into steaks. They might also mince the meat and prepare it in meatloaf, chili, or a stew.
Since manatee hunting has been illegal in the United States for some years, it can be difficult to find highly polished recipes for cooking it. That said, some recipes exist:
- Florida Hillbilly offers a lengthy narrative and description of cooking manatee meat.
- Outback Cooking describes the process of cooking dugong, a species quite similar to manatees
Is It Safe to Eat Manatee?
From a dietary perspective, it is certainly safe to eat manatee. However, that doesn’t mean it’s safe from a social perspective–you can face severe penalties for hunting manatees, from imprisonment to becoming a social pariah. If you’re committed to eating manatee, exercise caution!