If even the thought of exotic animal meat has you turning your nose up then you are missing some of the very best benefits it has to offer. The familiar beef, chicken and turkey fare has their place in your muscle-building diet, but stepping outside of your comfort zone and at least giving exotic animal protein sources a try may raise an eyebrow or two and excite your taste buds in the meantime.
On the muscle front (where it counts) specialty meats oftentimes dominate your normal go-to sources when it comes to leanness and protein amounts. Tasty, lean and packed full of high-quality amino acids, these unconventional sources will only help fast-track your progress to a leaner more muscular physique. So, pull up to the table and get a taste of these ten unique sources.
Per 3 ounce serving: 110 calories, 3 grams of fat, 19 grams of protein.
Swordfish is a firm meat with a very unique, rich flavor and is credited to having a myriad of health benefits as do many fish. They have two distinctive colors of meat: white meat (cream-white in color) and dark meat (cherry red in color). With somewhat high oil content the meat is very flavorful and has a slightly sweet taste.
Although the United States is a major market for swordfish consumption (15,000 tons per year) fishing is strictly managed in the U.S. to conserve resources and minimize impact on other species of animals.
Swordfish is not recommended to be consumed by young children, pregnant women and women of child-bearing age, warns the USDA due to the potential toxicity of high levels of methylmercury.
Swordfish has been proven to help a number of ailments such as the prevention of heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attacks, clogged arteries and rheumatoid arthritis because of its high levels of protein and essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Per 3 ounce serving: 95 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 18 grams of protein.
Slightly sweeter, richer and more robust flavor, bison is a perfect choice replacing your cattle beef consumption. Additionally, bison are normally allowed to roam free most of their lives without being exposed to hormones and large doses of antibiotics that beef is regularly subjected to.
By the time President Teddy Roosevelt founded the American Bison Society in 1906, only around 30 bison were left due to commercial hunting and slaughter.
Currently bison has made an amazing comeback due to the demand for this lean and tasty beef alternative. Ironically, this is what saved the population which is now more than 500,000. With demand rising and pallets changing, bison is one of the most accessible unconventional sources of protein.
With lean cuts, rich flavor and not to mention the hormone free condition, bison is lower in saturated fat than beef and is a great source of zinc, niacin, iron, vitamin B6 and selenium.
Per 3 ounce serving: 95 calories, 2 grams of fat, 18 grams of protein.
Goat is often compared to lamb regarding taste and texture. As another great alternative meat source, it is the most consumed meat in the world – over 70% of the world’s population enjoys goat.
Goat meat is considered a staple in areas such as North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia and is considered as one of the oldest meats recorded in the human diet.
Also known as Chevon, Capretto, Cabrito and Mutton goat meat’s demand is steadily increasing especially around Christmas, Easter and New Year’s holidays but is still well behind beef, pork and chicken in North America.
It’s a great source of iron, potassium, and thiamine and has less sodium, fat and cholesterol than traditional meats.
Per 3 ounce serving: 186 calories, 5 grams of fat, 30 grams of protein.
It’s tough to think of crocodile meat as palatable due to the tough, scaly appearance, but once you delve deeper into what it can offer regarding your muscle-building needs you will want a taste. Similar to alligator, crocodile is eaten in many countries spanning the globe.
Nutritionally dense, crocodile meat tastes much like a cross between chicken and crab. A 3 ounce serving can provide you with a whopping 30 grams of protein – considerably more than beef per serving.
High in potassium, iron and vitamin B-12 it has also been known to help with coughing and asthma problems. The skin is actually rich in pectin, which is effective in prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Crocodile meat is also low in cholesterol and sodium and relatively low in fat and is one of the most potent protein sources around.
Per 3 ounce serving: 100 calories, 2 grams of fat, 20 grams of protein.
Described as fruity and woody, deer meat has a tender texture and is similar in taste to beef with a slightly gamey flavor. Deer isn’t treated with antibiotics or hormones making it resistant to disease.
Venison can also refer to meat from any large game animal including Elk, Moose, Caribou, and Antelope and because of its high cost, it isn’t a hugely popular protein source.
Population control is traditionally achieved through hunting in highly populated areas which reduces the risk of disease and malnutrition. In turn, this ensures the meat will be of high quality and establishing a good future for the animals.
Not only is it lower in fat and cholesterol than beef it’s also high in key nutrients such as B vitamins, iron and phosphorus. Because of these benefits it has become a favorite of health conscious individuals, including those on restrictive diets.
Per 3 ounce serving: 95 calories, 1.2 grams of fat, 20 grams of protein.
As a member of the deer family, elk is bigger but similar in taste and texture to its venison cousin and it’s lean, all-natural and low in cholesterol and fat.
Also known as the Wapiti (White Rump by Native Americans) elk have been used for meat for more than 2000 years in Asia and Europe. North American Elk is one of the larger deer species in the United States second only to the North American Moose.
As New Zealand is the main supplier of elk meat in the world they produce a hybrid animal which is crossbred with Red Deer. While tasting very similar to elk, Red Deer may be a cosine to the elk but it’s still not truly elk.
High in iron, phosphorus, zinc and B vitamins, it has a sweeter taste than most exotic meats. Additionally, the American Heart Association dubbed elk “The Heart Smart Red Meat” as a lean alternative to beef.
Per 3 ounce serving: 105 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 19 grams of protein.
Red in color, ostrich is actually sweet and rich which tastes much like beef though it’s considered poultry. They grow faster than cattle on much less food and reproduce more often.
Weighing up to 400 pounds the ostrich is the largest bird alive and has the ability to kill a lion with one swift kick. The flightless ostrich is the fastest animal on two legs reaching up to 43 miles per hour sprinting and 30 mph long distance running.
Considered a common food in Europe and Africa their meat is considered a delicacy and can be a bit pricey in the United States.
Touted as the leaner and healthier alternative to beef, ostrich is a wise choice when searching for a better option as it is rich in protein, iron and B vitamins plus, there is no marbling in ostrich meat because the fat lies outside of the muscle making it leaner.
Per 3 ounce serving: 100 calories, 1 gram of fat, 20 grams of protein.
As another open range animal void of hormones and antibiotics aged kangaroo meat will have a slightly more gamey flavor than younger meat.
Kangaroo has been historically a source of food for indigenous Australians increasing in popularity abroad by being shipped to over 55 countries around the world.
As a great source of high-quality protein, low in fat, low in saturated fat and a good source of heart-friendly omega-3’s kangaroo meat also boasts high levels of iron, zinc and B vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, B6 and B12.
Kangaroo meat has a very high concentration of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) when compared with other meats. CLA can be attributed to a wide range of health benefits including anti-carcinogenic and anti-diabetes properties, in addition to reducing obesity and atherosclerosis.
Per 3 ounce serving: 105 calories, 2.8 grams of fat, 18 grams of protein.
Want a unique taste when it comes to truly exotic meat? Wild boar tends to be sweet with a strong nutty taste due to their diet of grasses, nuts and forage. Boar is considered a genuine game meat and tends to be leaner and darker red color than pork.
Prepared much like pork, this aggressive animal is low in calories and fat but high in protein.
Existing before the Ice Age, the wild boar is believed to be in human association as early as 13,000 B.C. Later, the Spanish explorers first brought the wild boar to the Americas for hunting and farming purposes. They quickly adapted to the new environment thus creating a population of feral pigs.
Also known as the wild pig, hog and razorback they are native across most of Northern and Central Europe, the Mediterranean and Indonesia.
Per 3 ounce serving: 100 calories, 1 gram of fat, 21 grams of protein.
Described as many to have a taste similar to filet mignon, like ostrich, emu is of the poultry family but is considered a red meat. Much like other wild meats, emu is free of growth hormones and low in fat and cholesterol.
As the world’s second largest bird (the ostrich being the largest) emu is a member of the group known as ratites which also include rheas, cassowaries, kiwis and ostriches. Native to Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea, the flightless emu is somewhat smaller than ostriches, are darker in color and have a higher resistance to disease.
Scientists believe the emu began roaming the Outback around 80 million years ago. They were once imported to the United States for breeding in zoos but a 1960 exportation ban in Australia stopped this practice.
Emu is another great lean source of protein packed with many benefits including magnesium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, and iron.