Can you eat pigeon?

In this paper, I will answer the question: “Can you eat pigeon?” and I will provide the health benefits of this meat and tips to consume it.

Can you eat pigeon?

Yes, you can eat pigeons. Despite the fact that it is illegal to kill a pigeon for the purpose of eating it, pigeon flesh is delicious and appreciated in many parts of the world. However, only particular pigeon species that have been specifically developed for this purpose are safe to eat.

What kind of pigeon can you eat?

Squab, wood pigeon, and wild pigeon are the three main types of pigeons that are suitable for human consumption. Meat of the pigeon is highly digestible and contains lower fat content than the meat of many other species and high protein and other nutrients than that of chicken meat. Moreover, the pigeons are mostly used for ceremonial purposes rather than to meet protein requirements (1).

Pigeon has historically been a very popular and prominent choice for a multitude of reasons ranging from ease of catch to ease of cooking. Pigeon has a unique niche in the modern culinary world. It is a prevalent staple on fine dining menus and at gastropubs, despite not being as popular as other meats. Consumers greatly appreciate the organoleptic characteristics of pigeon meat which is lean and rich in protein and with intramuscular fat that contains high proportions of monounsaturated  and polyunsaturated fatty acids (2).

The young pigeon, sometimes known as a squab (according to its age of 28-30 days), is the most common pigeon used for food application. Squab is preferred by the public because its meat and bones are softer than those of the large pigeon. The habitat in which they reside has an impact on the texture of their meat. The meat of pigeons raised on a farm will be softer than that of pigeons that develop wild. 

The consumption of pigeon meat is widespread in some areas of central and northern Italy, with a production of about 50,000 tons/year. To satisfy this demand, there are specialized pigeon farms, with their own slaughterhouses (2).

It’s not just the good taste of pigeon meat that tempts people. On the other hand, it is extremely nutritious. 

What is the nutritional value of pigeon meat?

Pigeon meat is prized for its organoleptic qualities. It is lean and high in protein, in addition to having a high amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids which are important to human health. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are linoleic acid (160 g/ kg) and arachidonic acid (40 g/ kg) (1).

Pigeon meat is high in protein and minerals like iron, which are good for our bodies. 

Pigeon meat has 22-24% more protein than chicken flesh. Vitamins A, B, E, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, zinc, selenium, and copper, are all present in pigeon flesh. The meat of young meat-type pigeons contains more magnesium, calcium, sodium, phosphorus and potassium than turkey meat. Zinc occurs in a similar amount in turkeys. Micronutrients play an important role in human nutrition, as they are responsible for maintaining the homeostasis of the body. Pigeon meat contains, respectively 52.57, 30.30, 8.68 and 3.91 mg per kg of Fe, Si, Zn and Cu (3). 

According to previous studies, it has been proven that pigeon meat also has a low cholesterol level (0.44 g/ kg tissue) (1).

Pigeon meat can be used in a variety of dishes, including soup and can be cooked with many methods: roasting, frying, steaming. It’s also appropriate for people of all ages.

What are the health benefits of pigeon meat?

Pigeon meat has plenty of health benefits:

  1. Improves disease resistance and physical recovery: Pigeon meat is high in beneficial nutrients, protein, and vitamins, and promotes physical recovery. Which is very helpful in providing your body’s nutritional needs as well as enhancing your immune system.

Pigeon meat is particularly advantageous to middle-aged and elderly individuals, as well as those with hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, and diabetes. It plays an important part in the patient’s post-surgery wound recovery and healing. Moreover, pigeon meat contains less sodium than beef and chicken meat, 616 mg/ kg compared to 740 mg/ kg and 770 mg/ kg, respectively (1,3).

  1. Improves skin and boosts memory: Pigeon meat is high in nutrients, which help to develop the brain and increase memory. It is also quite efficient in bringing freshness to your skin and increasing the life of your cells’ vitality.
  2. It’s an excellent nutritious supplement:  it contains less fat compared to other types of meat and provides many necessary elements for the body. Pigeon meat has no effect on blood lipids or sugar levels.
  3. Liver, kidney, and blood development: Pigeon meat is also thought to improve the liver and strengthen the kidney in Chinese medicine.

In addition, pigeon meat could provide important quantities of iron for anemic patients as well as for pregnant women. Iron is an essential micronutrient in haematopoiesis and various cellular metabolic reactions and iron in meat is more biologically available than the iron in plant products (1).

How to cook pigeon meat?

Pigeons do not have a season, so you can eat them all year. The pigeon’s summer diet of berries, grains, and seeds gives a wonderfully nutty flavor to the meat used in pigeon recipes.

You should pluck younger birds since you can cook them whole. Because older pigeons can be tougher, only pluck the breasts rather than the entire bird.

Pigeon breasts are excellent for grilling in the summer, and they can also be cooked in a hot smoker. 

There are 2 ways to cook wood pigeons: either cook them medium-rare or long and slow, to have the best texture results.

When purchasing wood pigeons, seek for flesh that is dark in color and free of any damage.

Young birds are great for roasting because they have tender meat that is black, rich, and gamey. Alternatively, pan-fry the breasts till golden brown on the outside and slightly pink in the center, then serve with garlicky mashed potatoes. Wood pigeon slices, pan-fried, combine well with salad greens.

Older birds get harder and are best cooked slowly with vegetables. Other strong flavors, such as gin, brandy, and port, as well as dried fruit, such as prunes, balance the richness of the flesh, and it’s delicious combined with braised red cabbage, lentils, or cabbage and bacon. To add extra tenderness, marinate wood pigeon with powerful spices and herbs like thyme, bay leaf, or parsley, as well as a fruity red wine.

Conclusion

In this essay, I answered the question: “Can you eat pigeon?” and I provided information related to nutritional aspects of the meat as well as its health benefits. On the other hand, I gave useful information to properly prepare pigeon meat.

Feel free to contact me for any information related to this subject. 

References

  1. Poławska, Ewa, et al. Meat from alternative species–nutritive and dietetic value, and its benefit for human health–a review. CyTA-J Food, 2013, 11, 37-42. 
  2. Dal Bosco, A., C. Castellini, and R. Cardinali. Effect Of Dietary Administration Of Rosemary Extract On The Oxidative Stability Of Pigeon Meat. It J food sci, 2005, 17.
  3. Majewska, Danuta, Tomasz Pohorecki, and Beata Matysiak. A preliminary study on selected utility traits and mineral composition of meat in King pigeons managed under extensive system in Poland. Acta Scient Polon Zootech, 2021, 20, 47-54.