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Published January 17, 2013, 11:30 PM

Sink your teeth into this: F-M stores, restaurant offering alligator meat

FARGO – If watching the good ol’ boys go to work in “Swamp People” has you hankering for ’gator meat, you’re in luck. A few stores and at least one restaurant in Fargo-Moorhead can help you put the bite on a heaping helping of alligator.

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

FARGO – If watching the good ol’ boys go to work in “Swamp People” has you hankering for ’gator meat, you’re in luck. A few stores and at least one restaurant in Fargo-Moorhead can help you put the bite on a heaping helping of alligator.

The Osgood Hornbacher’s has carried alligator meat for about six weeks.

“It’s farm grown, so people don’t have to worry if they’re eating (something that has eaten) a human or a cow,” meat department manager Ron Volk joked.

The frozen alligator meat goes for $15.99 a pound at Hornbacher’s.

Next to the alligator are crawfish and frog legs.

“We got a little bit of everything,” Volk said.

Both the Moorhead and Fargo Cash Wise Foods stores also carry alligator at $16.18 to $20.08 a pound, respectively.

Tim Skauge, owner of Prime Cut Meats in south Fargo, said he fills orders for alligator tail or shoulder meat in the summer and during Mardi Gras.

The Cajun Café in south Fargo has served alligator for more than 11 years.

The café’s menu includes an alligator sausage “po’ boy” sandwich, or the “Swamp Sampler” with breaded and fried alligator, crawfish and frog legs.

“We sell quite a few of these,” cook Dana Rurup said of the Swamp Sampler.

Likely spurring the recent race to taste are reality television shows such as History channel’s “Swamp People,” following the lives of those who make their living in southern Louisiana’s million-acre Atchafalaya Swamp.

There’s also “Gator Boys,” an Animal Planet show that follows two alligator trappers in Florida’s Everglades.

“I know that everyone talks about” the shows. “Everybody wants alligator,” Cajun Café owner Gary Gilbertson said.

Noel Kinler, the alligator program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said 32,000 to 34,000 wild alligators are harvested a year in the state in a highly regulated hunt.

Alligators have been around in some form for about 180 million years.

But by the 1950s, people’s taste for alligator belts, wallets and handbags led to overhunting that pushed alligators into endangered status, Kinler said.

Between 1962 and 1972, Louisiana had a moratorium on hunting. That allowed the wild population to bounce back to about 1.5 million today, Kinler said.

Many alligators are farmed. Louisiana and Florida dominate that industry. The 2011 value of farmed alligators in Louisiana was about $38.5 million, up from $28.7 million in 2010. Meanwhile, the net sales of alligator hides and meat in Florida fell from a high of almost $7 million in 2008 to $2.6 million in 2010, the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center reports.

Volk of Hornbacher’s has a couple of tips for those who want to tap into their inner Cajun cook. Many people bread their alligator and deep fry it, he said.

“The meat is like a turkey leg,” he said.

He also suggests pan frying it on medium heat (so it doesn’t get overcooked and tough) with white wine and onion or garlic.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

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