Have you ever looked at the city pigeons as they walk swiftly through the park and wondered if you can eat them? Or you simply keep pet pigeons and have been lately wondering if it’s safe to eat them? Well, you’re not alone. Most people are always asking the same question. So, is it safe to eat these birds?
Can you eat pigeons? Yes, you can eat pigeon meat. Pigeon meat, popularly known as squab, is consumed in various cuisines all over the world and is prized for its rich flavor and tender texture. Unknown to many people, pigeons have been on the menu in various parts of the world for many years.
In this article, we’ll discuss more details on whether it’s safe to eat these feathered creatures and whether any people around the world eat them. You’ll also find other helpful info such as the disadvantages of pigeon meat, whether it’s legal to eat pigeon meat, and how to cook pigeon properly.
Can You Eat Pigeon Meat?
You can eat pigeon meat! Popularly known as squab, pigeon meat has been consumed in various parts of the world, including the United States, and has long been considered a culinary delight.
Mind you, pigeons were the first type of bird to be domesticated for human consumption in the Middle East and Egypt.
Today, pigeon meat is featured in traditional cuisines in different parts of the world including Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America. It’s typically served as a delicacy in these parts of the world—where it’s prized for rich and dark meat.
However, keep in mind pigeons served as a delicacy are usually harvested before leaving the nest, at around 4 weeks. This explains why their meat is referred to as squab, which is the name for a baby pigeon.
This is important because when the birds are still young, they produce dark and tender meat full of flavor.
Since pigeons meant for food require time and labor to raise, they generally fetch a higher price at restaurants across the world. In the US, a pound of squad goes for up to $28.00.
There’s an ongoing debate on what type of pigeon to eat and which ones to avoid. The best type of pigeon to eat are the ones specifically bred and raised for food (squab) production.
Here are the types of pigeons that are safe to eat:
- Squab: The safest and best quality type of pigeon meat to eat is squab. Some people raise pigeons and breed them exclusively for food production. These are then used to produce squab, which involves harvesting the young pigeons before they leave their nests. Their meat is usually tender and quite common in culinary cuisine.
- Wild/forest pigeons: These pigeons usually feed on grains, fruits, insects, and worms. Avid hunters are known to drop these pigeons as a source of fresh meat when other games are unavailable season. However, the meat quality of these pigeons isn’t as good as squab. Once the pigeons have started flying, their meat will be tougher and less desirable compared to the traditional squab.
This video of a Calgarian man eating a pigeon is enough proof that the bird is safe for human consumption:
Can You Eat City Pigeons?
There’s also an ongoing debate on whether it’s safe to eat city, park, and parking lot pigeons.
Most people feel that these pigeons aren’t safe to eat because their diet usually consists of scavenging for whatever they can find. It’s not uncommon to see pilfering through waste and garbage for food.
Moreover, these pigeons are considered pests, and people in urban areas may use poison as a way of controlling them. This further raises the question of whether these birds are safe to eat.
But so far, no evidence has been found linking these pigeons directly to human infections (Source).
Thus, you can still eat these pigeons without worrying about any safety and health concerns. However, we still advise you to be cautious with these birds and consider the involved risks before taking them.
Or better off, you can completely avoid them and go for the safer options we have discussed above—i.e. a squab or forest pigeon.
Disadvantages of Eating Pigeon Meat
We have already said that pigeon meat is completely safe and a nutritious treat for you.
It serves as a good source of essential nutrients such as iron, proteins, and B Complex vitamins. Squab is also low in fat and cholesterol. Check out these nutritional facts about raw squab.
That said, you may still wonder if there are any disadvantages tied to eating this bird meat.
Below, we have outlined some potential disadvantages associated with eating this meat:
- Just like other game birds, pigeons may carry diseases or parasites in their bodies. Therefore, improper handling or preparation of their meat can result in foodborne diseases.
- Pigeon meat has limited availability compared to other common meats, making it less accessible for most consumers.
- Some people are also against the idea of eating pigeon meat since they are associated with urban settings as well as the issue of their treatment in the meat production industry.
- The legality of hunting and consuming pigeon meat tends to vary by state. Some states have laws in place protecting these birds and making it illegal to hunt them.
- Pigeon meat is considered a luxury, making it expensive and unaffordable for most individuals.
Can you Eat Pigeon Eggs?
Yes, pigeon eggs are also safe to eat and serve as an excellent source of proteins and other nutrients. You may eat the eggs raw but we strongly advise you to first cook them.
The preparation process for pigeon eggs is similar to that of chicken eggs—you can boil or fry them. Or you can incorporate them in dishes such as salads.
They have almost the same taste and offer the same nutritional profile as chicken eggs.
However, keep in mind that these eggs are much smaller compared to those of chickens. Therefore, you’ll need to have a handful of them in order to make a proper meal.
The fact that these eggs aren’t as readily available as chicken eggs also makes them a delicacy in some parts of the world.
How to cook pigeon
When it comes to cooking pigeons, you want to ensure you do it correctly to prevent any health issues that may arise from improper preparation.
Firstly, you will need to prepare your pigeon for cooking by plucking it. This is an easy process and only takes a few minutes.
Next, you should cut off the feet, wings, and head. While the legs and wings are safe to eat, the amount of meat these parts carry isn’t worth the effort.
Now that your bird is fully de-feathered and the unwanted parts cut off, you’ll need to make a nick right above the anus. It should just be wide enough for your fingers).
Now work your fingers up from breastbone to backbone and pull out the insides so you’re left with a clean cavity.
In case you’re cornered by the quality of your bird, simply cut open the gizzard to see what it has been feeding lately.
Lastly, slip a knife into the neck and make a little cut to help you set apart the neck and take out the windpipe.
Cooking the pigeon:
There are several methods of cooking pigeon meat as described below:
- Pan-frying: This is a simple method and involves browning your pigeon on both sides while aiming for a pink finish. This should only take a few minutes for each side. Allow the meat to rest for 3-4 minutes to enable it to retain the juices.
- Stewing: If you’re cooking an older pigeon with tougher meat, this is the perfect method for you. It involves cooking the pigeon slowly in a crock pot or adding it to stew or chili.
- Roasting: Brown both sides of your pigeon in flour and then put it in a roasting pan. Cover it with butter for approx. 30 minutes while covered at 425 degrees F. Add an extra 15 minutes uncovered.
- Grilling: This method involves cooking the meat on a grill, open fire, or survival stove until the meat is done. For added flavor, consider adding half a jalapeno on the bird’s side and wrapping it in bacon. Basting with your favorite beer once or twice can help add flavor.
- Pigeon pie: This is probably the most famous pigeon recipe. Pigeon pie is simply a rustic dish comprised of pigeons, mushrooms, and bacon. You first make a thick gravy and then combine all these ingredients in pie crust for baking.
Check out the video below on how to prepare and cook a pigeon:
It is legal to hunt and eat any type of pigeon in California as long as you have a valid hunting license from the local authorities.
Pigeon meat is referred to as squab in culinary terms. Squab simply refers to the young, tender meat from the baby pigeons and is favored for its delicate texture and flavor.
Pigeon meat is completely safe to eat and has been considered a culinary delight for years in many parts of the globe. The meat is highly nutritious and even considered a delicacy in various parts of the world due to its dark and rich flavor. The safest type of pigeon to eat is squab as it’s specially bred for meat production. Wild pigeons are also safe to eat. However, ethical concerns have been raised regarding eating city pigeons, as they’re associated with urban centers.
Be sure to follow our tips above on how to properly prepare and cook a pigeon to ensure you do it correctly and avoid foodborne illness. And before you take down a pigeon, be sure to check your local laws on whether wild or city pigeons are legal to hunt and eat as the rules vary from state to state.