The platypus is one of nature’s most unique creatures. With the bill of a duck, the tail of a beaver, and the venomous spurs of a reptile, the platypus seems like an animal invented by committee. And yet, the platypus is very real, found exclusively in eastern Australia inhabiting rivers, lakes, and streams.
The platypus is an oddity not only in appearance but also as a mammal that lays eggs rather than giving live birth. This uniqueness has led many people to wonder, can humans eat platypus? Is platypus meat safe for people to consume? Let’s take a look at what we know about eating this fascinating creature.
Is It Legal to Eat Platypus?
In most parts of Australia, it is illegal to hunt or consume platypus. The platypus is a protected species under law, and can only be hunted by indigenous people for traditional needs and purposes. For most people, eating platypus meat would be poaching which carries hefty fines.
However, in New South Wales and Queensland, it is legal for landholders to hunt platypus with the proper permits. The numbers allowed to be hunted are very restricted and the meat cannot be sold. So while not completely banned in all states, eating platypus is still extremely rare and tightly regulated in Australia.
Quick Facts on Platypus Hunting and Consumption
- Platypus hunting has been banned in Australia’s Capital Territory since 1927.
- In Victoria, platypus hunting has been illegal since 1967.
- South Australia outlawed platypus hunting in 1912.
- In Tasmania, the ban on hunting platypus dates back to 1870.
- Western Australia prohibited platypus hunting in the early 1900s.
So for most average people, eating platypus is off the table given tight restrictions. But for those who have tried it, what does platypus meat actually taste like?
Flavor and Texture of Platypus Meat
Descriptions of cooked platypus meat characterize it as a tender, juicy meat similar to rabbit or chicken. The meat is low in fat which means it can be easily overcooked and become tough. When properly prepared, the meat should have a mild flavor and savory taste.
The tail of the platypus is said to be the most prized part, described as the most tender cut of meat. However, getting enough meat off a platypus is challenging given their small size of 1-2.4 lbs in weight. An adult platypus will yield only about 200-500 grams of meat.
Quick Facts on Platypus Meat
- Platypus meat is typically compared to rabbit or chicken in flavor.
- It is low in fat and can become tough if overcooked.
- The tail has the most tender and desirable meat.
- Total edible meat per platypus only weighs around 1/2 to 1 pound.
So the taste and flavor profile of platypus appears be palatable to humans as a lean, delicate meat. But is it safe to eat when health and risk factors are considered?
Health Concerns Around Eating Platypus
While the flavor and taste may be amenable when cooked well, there are some significant health hazards associated with consuming platypus meat.
Risk of Disease
One of the biggest risks around eating platypus is potential exposure to disease. Platypuses are known carriers of tuberculosis, and likely other diseases communicable to humans. Any platypus meat would need to be thoroughly cooked to a proper temperature to kill off potential bacteria and other infective agents. Even then, there could be risk of consuming diseased meat.
Toxic Venom Spurs
Male platypuses have venomous spurs on their hind legs that can cause excruciating pain in humans and other mammals. While not typically lethal to humans, the venom contains substances that could contaminate meat if cut into during butchering and processing. Careful removal without piercing the venom glands would be vital if preparing platypus to eat.
Since platypuses live in waterways, there is increased risk of them accumulating heavy metals, pesticides, and other pollutants in their bodies. When humans eat platypus meat, these harmful chemicals and toxins can then be ingested. Long-term exposure could potentially lead to serious health issues.
Quick Facts on Health Risks
- Platypuses can carry and transmit tuberculosis and other contagious diseases.
- Their venomous spurs contain toxins that could contaminate the meat.
- Pollutants in their aquatic habitats can be stored in their bodies over time.
- These risks would need to be properly managed for consumption to be safe.
So simply capturing and cooking a platypus does not make it automatically safe to eat. The health hazards are considerable and steps would need to be taken to minimize the risks from disease, venom, and environmental toxins.
Preparing and Cooking Platypus Meat
For indigenous communities continuing traditional cultural practices, or the limited number of approved platypus hunting permits, proper preparation is vital if eating platypus meat. Here are some guidelines that should be followed:
The utmost care must be taken when butchering a platypus to avoid piercing or cutting into the venom glands and spurs. The venom could seep into the surrounding meat if not removed properly. A skilled and experienced hand is ideal to safely butcher a platypus.
All meat should be cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of at least 165°F (74°C) and potentially higher for added safety margin. This will kill any bacteria, parasites, or viruses that could be present in the meat or spread through cross-contamination.
Fresh platypus meat should be stored refrigerated at 40°F (4°C) or below. Frozen storage is recommended for any longer term preservation. Proper chilling, freezing, and thawing are important for safety.
Quick Tips for Preparation
- Carefully remove venom spurs during butchering.
- Cook all meat to 165°F minimum internal temperature.
- Refrigerate below 40°F or freeze for any storage.
- Defrost using refrigeration rather than room temperature.
By taking extra care, the risks of eating platypus meat can be reduced significantly. But following preparation best practices still may not fully eliminate the health hazards involved.
Availability of Platypus Meat
For those seeking to indulge their curiosity and try platypus meat, seeking it out legally poses quite a challenge. As covered earlier, hunting and consumption are prohibited throughout most of Australia except for specific indigenous allowances and highly regulated landowner permits in certain areas.
Purchasing platypus meat directly is simply not an option for anyone without special access. The only legal avenue would be receiving some from an indigenous source or permitted landowner acquaintance through a gift.
However, on the black market, illegal platypus poaching does persist on some level. The possibility of “mystery meat” from these sources making its way into restaurants or wild game dealers cannot be fully discounted. But reputable businesses would steer far clear of platypus meat given the legal and health risks involved.
In all likelihood, the vast majority of average people will never have the chance to try legally sourced platypus meat. Nor should they seek it from questionable underground sources given poaching concerns. But for those few able to access from traditional indigenous communities, they can follow proper preparation guidance and experience this rare delicacy.
Quick Facts on Availability
- Purchasing platypus meat directly would be illegal in most instances.
- The only avenue may be receiving some as a gift from a permitted source.
- Black market poaching provides some supply but carries risks.
- Most people will never have an opportunity to try ethically sourced platypus.
So unless you have an indigenous acquaintance willing to share, tasting platypus will likely remain an unfulfilled curiosity for the great majority.
Substituting Other Game Meats
Since tracking down properly hunted platypus meat is so challenging, some who want to replicate the experience seek out substitutes from other game animals. Different meats can provide a similar flavor profile when cooked in traditional platypus recipes. Some common alternatives include:
One of the closest texture and flavor matches for platypus is domestic rabbit meat. Wild rabbit from ethical hunting could also be a good stand-in. The lean and delicate qualities are very similar to platypus.
Like platypus meat, kangaroo meat is another iconic Australian game option. The loin or leg meat from younger kangaroos offers comparable tenderness and mild flavor.
This bird has a reputation for being “fishy” tasting, which could imitate some of the semi-aquatic hints of platypus. The delicate dark meat of guinea fowl may be another feasible substitute.
Quick Substitution Options
- Domestic or wild rabbit
- Loin/leg meat from young kangaroo
- Guinea fowl dark meat
These legally obtained meats can provide textures and juiciness to approximate platypus dishes, letting people indulge their curiosity without the many issues around consuming real platypus meat.
Can humans eat platypus meat? Legally and morally, the answer should be an emphatic no in most cases given the protected status of this unique animal in Australia. The few instances where consumption could be justified involve respectful traditional indigenous practices.
For all others, platypus meat remains an intriguing taboo – potentially tasty based on its flavor qualities but carrying substantial legal and health risks if consumed outside sanctioned circumstances. The safest way to satisfy curiosity about the taste would be using legally sourced game meats as substitutes in platypus recipes.
While the web is full of chatter about eating platypus and whether it’s good or bad, the most ethical and prudent answer is simply leaving this precious monotreme off the dinner table and honoring its importance in the Australian wilderness. With so many other animal protein options available, there is no defensible reason to poach or eat platypus for novelty.