In a previous article, I wrote about how iguanas were taking over South Florida. It has become such a nuisance that people down here are throwing their hands up about what to do. You can trap them, you can even kill them. Well, now it is being encouraged in one of the strangest of cultural appropriations…EAT THEM?!?!?
It seems that eating iguanas is a rich culinary past time in Latin America, South America & the Caribbean. They just consider it a way of life. I think a lack of actual meat to be had from other animals may lend to why. In the Caribbean, the native species and are known as “Pollo de Los árboles,” in Spanish, or in English, “chicken of the trees”. It is said that their meat actually contains more protein than chicken, and many believe it even has medicinal properties.
While many South Florida iguana lovers can trap the lizards for free and with little difficulty, those in other states have to order their iguana meat from companies such as Exotic Meat Markets.
The California-based Exotic Meat Market owned by Anshu Pathak imports an amazing 10,000 pounds of iguanas a month from Florida trappers.
The owner says that his company, which sells such items as lion steak and raccoon sausage, is helping to control the iguana population.
“I am making iguana sausages, hot dogs, iguana burgers. I am trying to do anything and everything to make them palatable to the public. The industry is only growing.”
He sells the meat to customers and restaurants all over the United States, offering boneless iguana meat for $59.99 per pound and whole, skin-on iguana for $49.99.
Pathak used to import iguanas from Puerto Rico but now prefers to get them from trappers in Florida. Trappers sometimes send the reptiles frozen, but mostly transport them alive and by plane.
Pathak’s facility has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. When he receives the live iguanas, he puts them in a freezer to kill them.
Selling iguanas requires a Florida wildlife license, though a permit is not needed to just own them, according to Robert Klepper, law-enforcement media spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. Anyone in the public can buy an iguana, Klepper said.
One thing that potential iguana diners should be wary of, is that these nuisance animals often get poisoned. And while it is illegal to do so, it does still happen. Before you want to dine, do what you can to make sure the iguana was not poisoned.