Do People Eat Armadillos?

Armadillos, or “little armored ones” are the only living mammals that have shells as they do. But did you know that some people actually eat armadillos?  

Do people eat armadillos? Yes, people do regularly eat armadillos in certain parts of the world. In parts of Central America and South America, many people eat armadillos as part of their average diet. It is a central part of the diet in southern Mexico city Oaxaca. 

The giant armadillo grows up to 150 cm (59 in) and weighs up to 54 kg (119 lb), while the pink fairy armadillo has a length of only 13–15 cm (5–6 in).

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Where do armadillos live? 

There are approximately 20 different species of armadillos and all species but one lives in Central America and South America (which is why it is more commonly eaten there than any other place in the world). These creatures like to live in areas near the equator because they do not have a lot of fat storage and the cold temperatures are dangerous to them.

The one type of armadillo that lives outside of Central and South America is the nine-banded armadillo, which can be found in parts of the United States.  

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Was armadillo ever commonly eaten in the United States

The nine-banded armadillo lives in the southeastern regions of the United State, but they can be found as far north as Illinois and Nebraska. While these animals are not commonly eaten in the United States today, it was a common meal for Americans during the Great Depression (which started in 1929 and continued until 1933).

During the depression, people would call armadillos “poor man’s pork” or even “Hoover hog,” after the President at the time and eat them out of hunger or even starvation. Now, the nine-banded armadillo is the state mammal of Texas and is no longer regularly eaten there.  

Today, while most people in America do not eat armadillos, there is an exception. “Florida Crackers,” or descendants of Floridians who came to Florida before 1763, are groups of people in Florida who are very proud of their history, traditions, and their daily way of life. These people have been known to eat armadillos and have been eating them for about the past 100 years and they still eat them today.  

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Are armadillos safe to eat? 

Even though people do eat armadillos, there are some concerns about their safety. Armadillos are susceptible to leprosy, which is because these animals have a very low body temperature of about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the perfect temperature for the bacteria that causes leprosy (Myobacterium leprae) to thrive. Experts estimate that about 6-10% of all wild armadillos carry leprosy, but in certain areas, that number could be up to 20%.  

This becomes concerning when armadillos become part of a meal. If the armadillo is cooked fully, the bacteria will be killed by the heat. But if the armadillo is undercooked, the bacteria may still be there. But with that being said, most armadillos do not carry leprosy and most people are immune to the disease, so the odds of getting leprosy from eating an armadillo is low, but not zero.  

Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease that affects the skin, nervous system, respiratory tract, and eyes. It is curable and if caught early, treatment can prevent permanent disability.  

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What do armadillos taste like? 

It is said that armadillos taste like fine-grained, high-quality pork. Armadillo meat can easily be substituted for pork, as well as chicken or beef, in many recipes. 

How is armadillo cooked? 

In some parts of South America, the armadillo will be gutted and then cooked on a grill with the shell still on. It will be cooked split side down and then can be eaten right out of the shell. Armadillos can also be cooked by frying or cooked slowly to ensure that the meat stays tender. Armadillo meat can be cooked into chili, stew, or just eaten on its own.  

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What are other types of wild game? 

Wild game means animals that are used for food but are not domesticated (like chicken, pigs, or cows), and there are different types of wild game all over the world. Some wild game that can also be found in the areas that armadillos live includes bison, deer, snakes, alligators, wild boar, and certain birds, like wild turkeys and pigeons.