Louisiana has been and still is the leader when it come to research and management of these wild reptiles. Ironically, the valuable leather trade and the meat market have enabled the success of the gator conservation effort. Fees paid by gator hunter and gator farmers provide funding to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to manage this resource. License fees and hide tag fees amount to more than a half million dollars for the conservation and management of Louisiana gators.
Gator, once considered a novelty item, is found on many restaurant menus as both entrée and appetizers. The flavor is mild and the texture is similar to chicken or pork. This allows for gator meat to be substituted in many popular recipes. The tail and body meat is white to pink in color, while leg meat is slightly redder. Almost all alligator meat is sold boneless.
Gator is high in protein and very low in calories, fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. This makes for a health-conscience choice for consumers on restricted diets.
Alligator meat is packaged in 1, 2 and 5 pound vacuum-packed pouches. Predominately alligator is sold in boneless chunks of tail meat. Though some specialty stores have body meat, ribs and leg meat available as well.
Gator is a mild flavored white meat that has the same consistency as chicken or pork. It can be substituted in chicken and pork dishes quite easily – or grilled and fried as a stand-alone entrée.
Fresh alligator may be kept sealed in its original packaging unopened in the refrigerator for 10-12 days. Fresh or opened product should be refrigerated for only 2-3 days without freezing.
Alligator meat may be frozen for later use, but should have all fat removed before cooking or freezing. It may be frozen for up to one-year with fat removed and wrapped in moisture proof material.
Cooked alligator can be stored in the refrigerator for approximately 3 days.
Use tail and jaw cuts for baked, fried and grilled items. Tenderize body and leg meat and use in soups, gumbos, picantes, casseroles, etc.
Tenderize all cuts for aren’t tender and cut across the grain for increased tenderness.
Remove all fat before preparation and freezing – this is easily done since it does not marbleize throughout the meat.
Farm-raised alligator meat is available all year round, prevalence depends largely on their size and market demand for their hides. Farm-raised meat may be slightly more expensive since it is produced from younger, smaller animals.
Louisiana’s wild alligator season takes place in September. Moderate amounts of fresh meat are available in months other than September from seafood dealers handling meat produced by alligator farms and from wild alligators harvested under the nuisance Alligator control program.