Squirrels are a common type of small game that can be hunted and eaten. But when it comes to nutrition, is squirrel considered a red meat? This is a question that many squirrel hunters and wild game enthusiasts find themselves wondering.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Squirrel meat is generally considered a red meat due to its protein content and nutritional profile being more similar to other red meats like beef and pork than white meats like chicken or fish.

In this detailed article, we’ll take an in-depth look at squirrel meat and its nutritional composition. We’ll compare it to other types of meat and see how it stacks up in terms of fat and protein content. We’ll also look at how squirrel is classified by regulatory agencies like the USDA.

Read on to learn everything you need to know to answer the question: is squirrel red meat?

Looking at the Nutritional Composition of Squirrel

High in Protein

Squirrel meat is an amazing source of protein. A 3 ounce serving contains around 25 grams of protein, making it comparable to chicken or beef. The high protein content makes squirrel a satisfying and muscle-building food. Consuming squirrel can help maintain healthy muscles as we age.

Plus, the amino acids in squirrel protein may boost immunity and heart health. It’s awesome that such a lean meat can be so protein-packed!

Low in Fat

One of the best things about squirrel is that it’s a lean meat. A 3 ounce serving contains only around 2 grams of fat, much less than most other meats. The low fat content means squirrel can be part of a healthy diet.

Consuming foods high in saturated fat can raise LDL “bad” cholesterol levels and heart disease risk. Luckily, squirrel is very low in saturated fat. Its leanness makes it a smart choice for those looking to control weight or fat intake.

Iron, Zinc, and B Vitamin Content

In addition to protein, squirrel meat provides important micronutrients. A serving contains about 10% of the daily value for iron and zinc. Iron is needed to transport oxygen in the blood, while zinc boosts immunity and wound healing. Squirrel meat also provides B vitamins like niacin, B6, and B12.

These assist with energy metabolism and nerve function. The array of nutrients in squirrel makes it great for overall health. It delivers protein along with various vitamins and minerals necessary for the body.

Here’s a nutritional comparison of squirrel with other meats:

Meat (3 oz serving) Calories Protein Fat
Squirrel 180 25g 2g
Chicken 140 25g 3g
Beef 200 25g 12g

As you can see, squirrel is high in protein but lower in fat and calories than beef. For nutritional data, check out the USDA FoodData Central.

Comparing Squirrel to Other Meats

More Protein than Chicken or Fish

Squirrel meat is an excellent source of protein, even better than popular options like chicken or fish. A 3 ounce serving of squirrel provides around 25-30 grams of protein, while the same amount of chicken or salmon has only around 20-25 grams.

The high protein content makes squirrel a nutritious choice for those looking to build muscle, aid recovery, or support general health. Protein is essential for growth and repair in the body.

Less Fat than Beef or Pork

In addition to lots of protein, squirrel meat is also quite lean. A 3 ounce serving of squirrel has around 2-3 grams of fat, which is less than most cuts of beef or pork.

For example, the same serving size of ground beef contains 15-20 grams of fat, while pork tenderloin has 5-10 grams. The leanness of squirrel makes it easier for your body to digest and metabolize.

Similar Nutrient Profile to Rabbit

When it comes to nutrient content, squirrel meat is most comparable to rabbit meat. Both are high in protein, relatively low in fat, and provide important micronutrients like iron, potassium, zinc and B vitamins.

Nutrient Squirrel (3 oz) Rabbit (3 oz)
Calories 155 147
Protein (g) 25 26
Fat (g) 3 4

The nutrition stats are very similar. So if you enjoy wild game like rabbit, there’s a good chance you’ll like squirrel meat too! 👍 It makes for a unique yet healthy protein choice to add to your diet.

How Squirrel is Classified by Regulatory Agencies

Considered Meat by USDA

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for overseeing meat production and distribution in the country. Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the USDA considers squirrel to be a type of meat that is suitable for human consumption.

Specifically, squirrel is classified by the USDA as a “non-amenable species” along with other small game animals like rabbit and venison.

As a non-amenable meat, facilities that process squirrel are exempt from mandatory USDA inspection. However, these processors must still adhere to basic sanitation standards and are subject to periodic USDA auditing.

Many states also have additional inspection and permitting requirements for processing plants handling squirrel and other specialty meats.

So while squirrel does not undergo rigorous pre- and post-harvest USDA inspection like beef or chicken, it is still officially classified as a meat product by the agency. This means squirrel meat can be legally harvested, sold, and consumed in the United States under the approved regulatory standards.

Often Grouped with Other Small Game Animals

In addition to federal regulations, many state wildlife agencies categorize squirrel along with other small game species like rabbit and quail. Small game regulations deal with details like hunting seasons, bag limits, licensing requirements, and approved harvesting methods for these animals.

For example, the Georgia Hunting Seasons and Regulations manual has an entire section dedicated to “small game” that includes squirrels. This section outlines the squirrel hunting season, legal weapons, and possession limits in Georgia.

So from a wildlife management perspective, squirrels are essentially managed as just another small game mammal species in most states.

Grouping animals like squirrels under small game regulations allows wildlife agencies to sustainably manage these abundant natural resources. It also provides hunters and outdoorsmen expanded hunting opportunities with less stringent licensing compared to big game like deer.

So categorizing squirrels as small game facilitates responsible harvest and consumption of this nutritious meat source.

Regulatory Agency Classification
USDA “Non-amenable species” meat
State Wildlife Agencies Small game animal

Reasons People May Consider Squirrel a Red Meat

High in Myoglobin Like Beef

Myoglobin is a protein found abundantly in muscle tissues that stores oxygen. The more myoglobin a meat contains, the darker red it looks when raw. Beef, considered a red meat, has high levels of myoglobin.

Interestingly, some research has shown that squirrel meat also contains significant amounts of myoglobin, giving it a distinctly red color (similar to beef) when raw.

For example, one study found squirrel leg meat contains about 5.2-7.5 mg/g of myoglobin. This is comparable to beef cuts like sirloin which contain around 5-9 mg/g. So in terms of myoglobin concentration, squirrel could be classified with other red meats.

Has a Distinctive Flavor

The flavor of squirrel meat is often described as nutty, robust, and slightly gamey. Thisdistinctive flavor likely comes from their varied wild diet of nuts, mushrooms, fruits, buds, tree bark and sometimes insects.

The rich, savory flavor of squirrel is similar to other red meats like venison, boar and lamb. So for those who enjoy the more assertive flavor of red meat, squirrel can make a good culinary substitute.

Used to Replace Red Meat in Recipes

Because it has a hearty texture and strong flavor like beef or lamb, squirrel meat can be usedin place of red meat in many recipes. Some popular options are:

  • Squirrel stew – Replaces beef in traditional beef stew recipes.
  • Squirrel sausage – Ground squirrel can substitute for pork or beef in sausage recipes.
  • Squirrel chili – Substitute cubed squirrel meat in chili in place of beef cubes.
  • Squirrel broth – Bones from squirrel can be used make broth for soups/stews.

An analysis of substitute ingredient search data shows that “squirrel instead of beef/chicken/pork” are some of the most commonly searched phrases. This indicates people specifically use it in place of red meat/poultry in recipes.

Meat Myoglobin level Flavor
Squirrel 5.2-7.5 mg/g Nutty, gamey
Beef (sirloin) 5-9 mg/g Beefy, savory

As the table shows, beef and squirrel can have similar myoglobin content, indicating comparable red meat qualities. And while their flavors differ, both are considered hearty and full-flavored meats.

Arguments for Classifying Squirrel as a White Meat

Low in Fat Like Chicken or Fish

Squirrel meat is surprisingly low in fat, with some cuts containing as little as 2 grams of fat per 3 ounce serving. This puts it on par with extra lean cuts of meat like chicken breast or wild fish, which are typically considered white meats due to their low fat content.

For example, a skinless, boneless squirrel hindquarter contains around 2 grams of total fat, remarkably close to a skinless chicken breast at around 3 grams of fat. Compare that to fattier meats like beef or lamb which can contain anywhere from 5 to 15+ grams of fat per serving.

With today’s focus on healthier diets, the low fat content of squirrel meat is a compelling reason to group it with other lean meats in the white meat category.

Light Meat Color Similar to Chicken

The actual meat of cooked squirrel is light in color, generally pinkish-white to light tan. This is comparable to the appearance of cooked chicken, turkey, or rabbit meat, all considered white meats.

The visual resemblance further strengthens the case for squirrel being placed in the white meat group. Unlike darker, red meats like beef, venison or liver which retain a reddish hue even after cooking, squirrel meat is visibly similar to established white meats when prepared.

Can Be a Lower-Fat Alternative to Red Meat

For those looking to reduce red meat consumption for dietary or ecological reasons, squirrel is an appealing yet often overlooked alternative meat source.

In fact, squirrel is frequently described by hunters as “tasting like chicken” in terms of flavor and texture, while also providing an ethically sound, field-harvested meat with far less environmental impact than beef or lamb production.

So for the health and environmentally-conscious person, squirrel meat is a tasty, renewable lower fat substitute where chicken or rabbit alone may not fully satisfy.

With one of the strongest arguments for a meat being in the red meat category being high amounts of fat and cholesterol, the white meat-like profile of squirrel cuts against that substantially. And combined with other similarities in meat color and favorable comparisons to white meats in terms of taste, categorizing squirrel as a white meat is a very reasonable stance to take.

Conclusion

When it comes to classifying squirrel meat, there are good arguments on both sides. Its high protein content and myoglobin level point towards it being a red meat. But its leanness and light color also give it white meat characteristics.

Ultimately, while squirrel falls somewhere in between, most experts consider it to be a lean red meat due to its nutritional profile.

So in summary, while not as dark or fatty as beef or pork, squirrel can generally be considered a red meat. Its high protein content, distinctive flavor, and ability to stand in for red meat in recipes pushes it into the red meat camp.

However, its leanness also allows it to be a healthier alternative to fattier red meats. If you enjoy hunting and cooking squirrel, being aware of its nutritional qualities can help you make the best use of this tasty game meat.

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