Most people have never tasted donkey meat as it is not a common food source in most countries; however, in some parts of the world, it is eaten regularly. Donkey meat can be called different names depending on what part of the world you are in, how it is prepared, and the language being used. Most of the time, donkey meat is referred to as just that–donkey meat; but according to some reports, the slang term for this food in China is “poopy.”
In parts of the Hebei Province in northern China, specifically Heijan and Baoding, the food is usually called “donkey burger” since it is commonly served as a burger or sandwich on a baked, flaky, unleavened bread. The donkey meat is usually shredded or chopped to have a consistency similar to corned beef hash and is then mixed with cilantro and green chilies. In Heijan, the meat is served cold on a square bread called shaobing, while in Baoding, it is served hot on round bread called huoshao. Donkey burgers are served in both high-end restaurants and by street vendors.
In Italy, donkey meat is simply called by the Italian word for donkey which is “asino.” When ordering something that contains donkey meat, it is not always clear what part of the animal the meat comes from. One exception to this is if the food is labeled donkey offal. Offal usually refers to the internal organs of the animal, which may include heart, intestines, liver, brain, tongue, and kidneys–though again, it is not always clear which parts are included.
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Where Is Donkey Meat Eaten?
Donkey meat is known to be eaten in various parts of the world including parts of Asia, Europe, Africa, and North America. How donkey meat is prepared and eaten varies based on the culture and style of cuisine in each country. In China, donkey meat is often eaten in burgers or sandwiches but is also used in stew, and in hot pot–a type of soup dish.
In Italy, donkey meat is consumed in stews, pasta dishes including ravioli, and in cured meats like salami. The province of Vicenza in the northern part of Italy, just west of Venice, is one place where donkey salami is produced. Donkeys are bred specifically for their meat in this part of the country. In Africa, people consume donkey meat in countries in the north such as Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco.
Some restaurants in North America have begun serving dishes with donkey meat in them. These are predominantly Chinese restaurants in major urban centers. The Donkey King Asian Burgers restaurant in Toronto, Canada serves dishes such as Burger with Spicy Donkey Meat, Donkey Offal Soup, and Braised Donkey Meat in Hot Bean Sauce.
Is Donkey Meat Good For You?
Donkey meat has a lot of similarities to other meats that are available for consumption and it is often compared to beef, pork, or horse meat. Since donkeys only eat plants and not animals, they tend to produce meat that is rather lean. It is low in fat, low in cholesterol, and high in protein.
A book published in 2021, titled Meat and Nutrition, suggests that consumption of donkey meat may be beneficial for human health due to its low fat and high protein content. It is similar in composition to horse meat, which is commonly eaten in countries such as Italy, Uzbekistan, Belgium, Mexico, Iceland, Indonesia, and Germany.
One thing to keep in mind if buying or consuming donkey meat is that there have been cases of meat being fraudulently mislabeled. Authorities in different countries have found that butchers will sometimes use cheaper animals like pig, horse, or mule but then label the meat as coming from a donkey. Unless you are involved in the slaughtering process, it can be very difficult to know what type of meat you are actually getting.
What Does Donkey Meat Taste Like?
Just like any other meat, a lot of the taste in donkey meat comes from how fresh it is, how it is prepared, and what seasonings or other foods are used to cook it with. Donkeys that are bred specifically for their meat tend to be slaughtered when they are relatively young. This produces a more tender meat that is better for eating.
Donkeys that are mainly used for agricultural or transport purposes tend to be slaughtered when they are no longer useful for those purposes. At this older age, the meat from these donkeys tends to be tough. With this type of sinewy meat, it should be marinated and cooked for a longer time so that it becomes more tender.
The taste of donkey meat is also influenced by the diet of the animal. Based on what the donkey consumes, the flavor of its meat can range from very strong and gamey, like venison or bison, to a much milder flavor. The addition of certain spices and herbs can alter the taste of the meat quite a bit.
Why Do People Eat Donkey Meat?
People may eat donkey meat for several reasons, the main one being because they enjoy the taste and flavor of it. In some parts of the world, donkey meat is an inexpensive option and is eaten mainly because it is cheap to purchase. Some people also eat donkey meat because they believe it provides health benefits.
It is thought that donkeys have been eaten since as early as the 1300s during the Ming Dynasty in China. During this time, there were many food shortages and people began eating horses. However, since horses could be used in war, people changed to eating donkeys since these animals were not as valuable.
In China, eating donkey meat became more popular during the early 1900s with the increase in rail travel. Donkeys were not needed as much for transportation purposes after the rail lines were built. Laws were passed that prohibited slaughtering horses because they could be used for agricultural reasons, so donkeys became a popular meat choice.
As more people have started to consume donkey meat, donkey burgers, “asino,” or “poopy” as donkey meat is called in some places, there has become a shortage of these animals in the world. The worldwide population of donkeys is estimated to be around 44 million. China alone uses about 4 million of these animals each year, which means that these animals are now at risk of becoming endangered or extinct if current habits continue.
Many of the donkeys that China consumes are imported from other countries. As the urban population has increased in China, not as many people are farming and raising donkeys so they must get the animals elsewhere. In 1990, there were over 10 million donkeys in China but by 2017 this number had dwindled to only 3 million.
In 2020, Kenya created a ban on slaughtering donkeys as the population of these animals had gone from 1.8 million to 1.2 million in just 10 years. However, this ban was rescinded in 2021 and the country is now a prominent exporter of donkey meat. Other countries such as Tanzania, Niger, and Senegal, continue to ban the export of donkey meat to China.