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Barbecued rats for sale, in Thailand

Rat meat is the meat of various species of rat: medium-sized, long-tailed rodents. It is a food that, while taboo in some cultures, is a dietary staple in others.[1][2] Taboos include fears of disease or religious prohibition, but in many places, the high number of rats has led to their incorporation into the local diets.



In Malawi of East Africa, people there hunted field mice in corn fields for food: they strung the mice on sticks and cooked, salted or dried the mice as a popular delicacy in markets and roadside stalls.[3] In Sub-Saharan Africa where cane rats are found, some people have the habit of eating them.[4]


Rat stew was once consumed in West Virginia, the dish having originated during economic hardship due to a collapse in the mining industry.[5] The dish is an example of roadkill cuisine and has appeared in the Marlington Roadkill Cook-off.[6]


Rat (most likely ricefield rat) on sale for meat in Thailand
Rat (most likely reed vole) meat in Guangxi, China

In some cultures, rats are or have been limited as an acceptable form of food to a particular social or economic class. In the Mishmi culture of India, rats are essential to the traditional diet, as Mishmi women may eat no meat except fish, pork, wild birds and rats.[7] Conversely, the Musahar community in north India has commercialised rat farming as an exotic delicacy.[8]

Ricefield rat (Rattus argentiventer) meat is eaten in Vietnamese,[9][10][11][12][unreliable source?] Taiwanese,[13][14][15] Cambodian and [11]Chinese cuisines. Rat-on-a-stick is a roasted rat dish consumed in Vietnam and Cambodia.[16]

A 2020 study on wildlife trade in three southern Vietnamese provinces found that 55 percent of the field rats sold in tested restaurants were carrying a coronavirus.[17]


In Victorian Britain rich and poor ate rat pie.[18] During food rationing due to World War II, British biologists were known to eat laboratory rats, creamed.[19]

A recipe for grilled rats, Bordeaux-style, calls for the use of alcoholic rats who live in wine cellars. These rats are skinned and eviscerated, brushed with a thick sauce of olive oil and crushed shallots, and grilled over a fire of broken wine barrels.[20][21][22][23][24]

In Valencia, Spain, Ricefield rat (Rattus argentiventer) meat was immortalized by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez in his novel Cañas y barro. Along with eel and local beans known as garrafons, rata de marjal (marsh rat) is one of the main ingredients in traditional paella (later replaced by rabbit, chicken and seafood).[25]


In the traditional cultures of the Hawaiians and the Polynesians, rat was an everyday food for commoners. When feasting, the Polynesian people of Rapa Nui could eat rat meat, but the king was not allowed to, due to the islanders' belief in his "state of sacredness" called tapu.[26] In studying precontact archaeological sites in Hawaii, archaeologists have found the concentration of the remains of rats associated with commoner households accounted for three times the animal remains associated with elite households. The rat bones found in all sites are fragmented, burned and covered in carbonized material, indicating the rats were eaten as food. The greater occurrence of rat remains associated with commoner households may indicate the elites of precontact Hawaii did not consume them as a matter of status or taste.[27]

Middle East (and Middle Eastern Religions)

Elsewhere in the world, rat meat is considered diseased and unclean, socially unacceptable, or there are strong religious proscriptions against it. Islam and Kashrut traditions prohibit it.

South America

Both the Shipibo people of Peru and Sirionó people of Bolivia have cultural taboos against the eating of rats.[28][29]

As food for pets

Rats are a common food item for snakes, both in the wild, and as pets. Adult rat snakes and ball pythons, for example, are fed a diet of mostly rats in captivity. Rats are readily available (live or frozen) to individual snake owners, as well as to pet shops and reptile zoos, from many suppliers. In Britain, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 "legally required that prey be killed before feeding unless absolutely necessary for the health of the predator."[30][31] The rule was put into place mainly because of the pressure of the RSPCA and people who said the feeding of live animals was cruel.

See also


  1. ^ Newvision Archive (2005-03-10). "Rats for dinner, a delicacy to some, a taboo to many". Archived from the original on 2012-09-22. Retrieved 2012-09-24.
  2. ^ "Rat meat taboo". Retrieved 2012-09-24.
  3. ^ "Mice, anyone? They make tasty meal in Malawi". NBC. 2009-08-10. Retrieved 2021-08-14.
  4. ^ Gruber, Karl (2015-12-07). "While rats are met with revulsion in most parts of the world, some communities put rodents pride of place on the dinner menu". BBC. Retrieved 2021-08-14.
  5. ^ Worrall, Simon (2015-12-20). "What's Best, Worst, and Most Weird About American Food". Archived from the original on 2016-01-05. Retrieved 2016-01-10. Rat stew was born out of lean times as a result of the collapse of the mining industry
  6. ^ Pollack, Hilary (2016-01-02). "America's Most Beloved Regional Dishes Have Dark and Fascinating Histories | MUNCHIES". Vice. Archived from the original on 2016-01-10. Retrieved 2016-01-10. There were other [people] who actually celebrated the eating of rat as a culinary cultural inheritance, to the point where in Marlinton, West Virginia, for instance, they hold this annual roadkill cookoff in order to celebrate the eating of roadkill in West Virginia. When I visited the annual roadkill cookoff in Marlington, there were two folks preparing rat dishes.
  7. ^ Mills, J. P. (1952). "The Mishmis of the Lohit Valley, Assam". The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 82 (1): 1–12. doi:10.2307/2844036. JSTOR 2844036.
  8. ^ Musahar Hindus commercialise rat farming Archived February 21, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Rats Back on the Menu in Vietnam". 2006-01-06. Archived from the original on 2015-12-24. Retrieved 2016-01-10.
  10. ^ "Vietnamese eat rats and are aggressive, Stanford professor says in article, triggering online uproar". February 2013. Archived from the original on 2015-12-24. Retrieved 2016-01-10.
  11. ^ a b Sou Vuthy (2012-09-12). "Rat meat on the menu at the Vietnam border, Lifestyle, Phnom Penh Post". Archived from the original on 2015-12-24. Retrieved 2016-01-10.
  12. ^ "Would You Ever Eat a Rat? VIDEO : Dining with Death". Archived from the original on 2014-08-17. Retrieved 2016-01-10.
  13. ^ Jennings, Ralph (28 January 2008). Macfie, Nick (ed.). "No ratatouille on Taiwan menu, but plenty of rat". Reuters. CHIAYI, Taiwan. Archived from the original on 9 February 2011. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  14. ^ HUANG, ANNIE (10 February 2002). "Eat, Drink, Man, Rodent". The Item. Vol. 107, no. 118. CHIAYU, Taiwan. p. 10A. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  15. ^ William Campbell (1915). "Sketches from Formosa". p. 131. XXII BREAKFASTING ON RATS
  16. ^ Molloy, M.J.; Duschinsky, P.; Jensen, K.F.; Shalka, R.J. (2017). Running on Empty: Canada and the Indochinese Refugees, 1975-1980. McGill-Queen's Studies in Ethnic History. MQUP. p. 323. ISBN 978-0-7735-5063-6. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  17. ^ Gorman, James (6 July 2020). "Wildlife Trade Spreads Coronaviruses as Animals Get to Market". New York Times. Retrieved 15 December 2021. the percentage that tested positive for at least one of six different coronaviruses jumped significantly. It increased from 20 percent of wild-caught rats sold by traders, to slightly more than 30 percent at large markets, the next step in the supply chain, to 55 percent of rats sold in restaurants that tested positive.
  18. ^ Matt Elton (25 February 2016). "What was the best meal in history? - Boiled rats in a pie". BBC History. Archived from the original on 16 March 2016.
  19. ^ Jared M. Diamond (January 2006). Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail Or Succeed. Penguin. pp. 105–. ISBN 978-0-14-303655-5. creamed rat.
  20. ^ Calvin W. Schwabe (1979). Unmentionable Cuisine. University of Virginia Press. pp. 204–. ISBN 978-0-8139-1162-5. Archived from the original on 2016-09-11.
  21. ^ "Cooking Rats and Mice". Archived from the original on 2016-06-20.
  22. ^ "Cooking Rats and Mice". Archived from the original on 2016-05-28.
  23. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-08-08. Retrieved 2016-06-23.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ "Grilled Rats and Other Weird Halloween Recipes". Archived from the original on 2016-07-22.
  25. ^ Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, La cocina de los mediterráneos, Ediciones B – Mexico
  26. ^ Leach, Helen. (February 2003) Did East Polynesians Have a Concept of Luxury Foods? World Archaeology, Vol. 34, No. 3, Luxury Foods. pp. 442–457.
  27. ^ Kirch, Patrick V.; Sharyn Jones, O'Day (2003). "New Archaeological Insights into Food and Status: A Case Study from Pre-Contact Hawaii". World Archaeology. 34 (3): 484–497. doi:10.1080/0043824021000026468. S2CID 161955651.
  28. ^ Behrens, Clifford A. (September 1986) Shipibo Food Categorization and Preference: Relationships between Indigenous and Western Dietary Concepts. American Anthropologist, Nathan New Series, Vol. 88, No. 3. pp. 647–658.
  29. ^ Priest, Perry N. (October 1966) Provision for the Aged among the Sirionó Indians of Bolivia. American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 68, No. 5. pp. 1245–1247
  30. ^ "Live-Feeding Prey to Captive Predators". 2014-10-17. Retrieved 2021-08-14.
  31. ^ "Animal Welfare Act 2006". Retrieved 2021-08-14.