Let us face it; it tastes sweet, like a cross between a duck and lamb. The squirrel meat is low in fat as well as low in food miles and most important, free range. In fact, many people affirm that the grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is just about as ethical as any other meat. Sales figures consolidate this statement as butchers affirm that they are selling squirrel meat like cup cakes. The grey squirrel is the American cousin of Great Britain’s endangered red variety which are becoming more and more a rarity nowadays.
Back to the grey squirrel, at Ridely’s Fish & Game, a shop located in Corbridge, Northumberland, the owner David Ridley recently stated that he sold 1,000 at �3.50 a squirrel in just a few months. “I wasn’t sure at first, and wondered would people really eat it. Now I take every squirrel I can get my hands on. I’ve had days when I have managed to get 60 and they’ve all sold straight away.”
Regarding the taste of the meat, he said, “It’s moist and sweet because, basically, its diet has been berries and nuts”. Many people believe that this increasing popularity is due to its green credentials. David Simpson, the director of Kingsley Village shopping centre in Fraddon, Cornwall said that “people like the fact it is wild meat, low in fat and local – so no food miles” while Ridley was patriotic, saying that “Eat a grey and save a red. That’s the message”.
Jay Rayner who is The Observer’s restaurant critic affirmed that he never ate squirrel meat but if he would have it for dinner in the future, “it would have to be a big, fat country squirrel and not one of the mangy urban ones you see in cities”. “People may say they are buying it because it’s green and environmentally friendly, but really they’re doing it out of curiosity and because of the novelty value. If they can say, “Darling, tonight we’re having squirrel”, then that takes care of the first 30 minutes of any dinner party conversation. I see it remaining a niche. There’s not much meat on a squirrel, so I’d be surprised if farming squirrel takes off anywhere some time soon.”
Kevin Viner who is the former chef-proprietor of Pennypots (the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Cornwall), now runs Viners bar and restaurant at Summercourt, said that eating squirrel meat will still remain a niche but the room to expand is available as Britain has a plentiful supply of meat with more than 5 million squirrels spread. Kevin stated, “A large squirrel would be enough for one-and-a-half people. The public really are being drawn to it. I think that it’s because it is being perceived as a healthy meat. Southern fried squirrel is good. And tandoori style works. It is especially tasty fricass�ed with Cornish cream and walnuts. But the one everyone seems to like is the Cornish squirrel pasty.”
The fact is that the squirrel meat is becoming more and more popular among households and you can see this from the numerous squirrel recipes available on the Internet. We do not know if it will remain a niche market or not, all we do know is that the meat is great and there are no potential risks as some people recently stated. We are not trying to convince anyone to eat or do not eat squirrel meat, this was just a brief presentation of the status of the grey squirrel meat.