Rats: If we can’t beat them, eat them?

Grilled Rice Field RatOver the millennia that we have been fighting rats, researchers have provided nearly endless solid scientific rationale for us wanting to hit any we see with a baseball bat about 17 times.

They spread disease, eat our food, contaminate our food and homes, bite us, and are generally unlikable.

The BBC reports that there are farmers in Southeast Asia that now believe that if we can’t beat them, we might as well eat them. In the article, one rat trapper explains that these rats are not the nasty rats seen in horror movies and nightmares. These rats are better-tasting rice-fed rats — or so they claim.

“Wild rats are very different. They eat different food,” said Cambodian farmer Chhoeun Chhim, “[Common rats] are dirty and they have a lot of scabies on their skin. That’s why we don’t catch them.”

In the article, Chhim lists the “superior” eating habits of the rats he had caught the night before: rice stalks, the vegetable crops of unlucky local farmers, and the roots of wild plants.

An article on the Care2 website discusses the economics of selling rat meat: “At the peak of rat-catching season, fellow rat trader, Chin Chon, describes how he will typically export hundreds of rats each morning to Vietnam. Initially, rat meat sold for less than 20 cents per kg, but now the going price is $2.50 per kg and the price just keeps going up.”

The article explains that “rat-catching season peaks at the tail end of the rice harvest in June and July, when rats suddenly find themselves bereft of their main supply of food — rice. This lack of food combined with intense seasonal rains drives the rodents to higher ground and right into the traps set by farmers like Mr. Chimm. On a lucky night, he can catch 25 kg of wild rats.”

Trapping rats can provide rice farmers an economic boost, and somewhat compensate them for the huge losses attributed to rats. One report estimates that 5 to 10% of Southeast Asia’s annual rice crop is loss to rats while still in the field.

But, how does rat meat taste?

“A bit like pork,” said Chhim in the article, although he doesn’t eat them himself. “We sell the rats for money and buy fish instead.”

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