The American Alligator is the largest reptile in North America, yet it once sat on the brink of extinction due to unregulated hunting seasons and a demand for its hide. Conservation and habitat control have swung the pendulum for the alligator, however, which today number close to two million in Louisiana alone.
Louisiana has been and is still the leader when it comes to research and management of these wild reptiles. The robust alligator leather trade and meat market have enabled the success of the alligator conservation effort. Fees paid by alligator hunters and farmers provide funding to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to maintain the population. License fees and hide tag fees amount to more than a half million dollars annually, which goes directly toward the conservation and management of the Louisiana alligator population.
While it was once a novelty, alligator can now be found on menus statewide. The flavor is mild and the texture is similar to chicken or pork, which allows for the meat to be used in recipes across all cuisines. The tail and body meat is white to pink in color, while leg meat is slightly redder. Almost all alligator meat is sold boneless. It is high in protein and very low in calories, fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.
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.
Fresh alligator may be kept sealed in its original packaging in the refrigerator for 10 to 12 days. Fresh or opened product should be refrigerated for only two to three 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 a year wrapped in moisture-proof material and trimmed of fat.
Cooked alligator can be stored in the refrigerator for about three days.
Alligator meat is usually sold in fillets, and you’ll want roughly one-fourth pound to one-third pound per person.