Why do humans not eat lizards?

There are a few key reasons why humans generally do not eat lizards:

  • Lizards are not a traditional or common food source for most cultures.
  • Lizards tend to be small, making them not very worthwhile as a food source.
  • Some lizards may pose a disease risk if eaten.
  • Lizards are not farmed or mass produced for food like chickens, pigs, or cows.
  • Lizards are seen as pets rather than livestock in many parts of the world.

While lizards are edible and eaten in some cultures, they have not become a mainstream food item for humans worldwide. However, some specific reasons why humans do not eat lizards are explored below.

Lizards Are Not a Traditional Food Source

One of the main reasons humans do not eat lizards is that they have simply not been a traditional or common food source for most cultures throughout history. Unlike livestock like chickens, pigs, cows, and fish, lizards have not been domesticated and farmed for their meat.

Humans tend to eat animals they have abundantly available or that have been part of their cultural food traditions. Lizards do not fall into this category for most societies. While they are sometimes eaten as a survival food in extreme circumstances, lizards have not become ingrained in cuisines around the world.

The kinds of animals different cultures eat is largely based on availability, ability to raise them for food, and historic tradition. Lizards do not meet these criteria for becoming a mainstream food item for humans.

Lizards Provide Little Meat

Lizards are generally very small animals, with mature sizes ranging from just a few inches to a couple feet for larger lizard species. Even the biggest lizards top out at just over 3 feet long. Compared to other meat sources like cows, pigs, and sheep which can weigh hundreds of pounds at maturity, lizards provide very little actual meat per animal.

Raising and processing lizards for just tiny amounts of meat is not very efficient or worthwhile. Cows and pigs supply large cuts of muscle meat because that is what they are raised for. Lizards did not evolve to accumulate lots of muscle mass and are small creatures. Their small size makes them an impractical food animal.

The amount of meat on a single lizard would only be enough to feed one person a tiny portion. So lizards are not a viable livestock animal to raise for feeding large groups of people.

Risk of Disease

Some lizards may pose a disease risk if eaten. While cooking meat properly kills parasites and pathogens, some lizard species may harbor bacteria like Salmonella more often than traditional farm animals.

Eating undercooked lizard meat or processing them could expose people to infectious diseases through cross-contamination. Lizards are not cleaned, raised, and butchered like domestic animal species, increasing the risks of accidentally introducing pathogens into human food.

Lizards may live in unsanitary environments and eat disease-carrying insects and animals. This makes their meat less safe overall compared to livestock that have been bred for generations to live on farms and eat clean foods.

People likely avoided eating lizards historically to avoid getting sick. Modern food regulations also restrict the sale of wild reptiles like lizards to prevent disease transmission.

Lizards Are Wild Animals

Another barrier to lizards becoming a food source is that they are wild animals, not suitable for farming like domestic livestock. Chickens, cows, pigs, and other livestock have been selectively bred over thousands of years to live alongside humans and provide food. Their genetics, behavior, feeding, and housing requirements are tailored for living on farms.

In contrast, lizards are still wild creatures not adapted for domestic life. They evolved in natural habitats like forests and deserts. Lizards would not thrive living in high density farm environments even if humans attempted to raise them.

They may be difficult or dangerous to handle due to biting or tail whipping defenses. Providing the proper food, housing, temperature regulation, and care required for such non-domesticated species would not be feasible or cost effective.

Attempting to mass produce wild lizards for food does not make economic or practical sense compared to already established livestock like chickens.

Cultural Perceptions of Lizards

Cultural views and perceptions of lizards have also limited their use as a food source. In many societies, lizards are seen more as exotic pets, zoo animals, or pests than an animal to eat. They do not have a tradition of being linked to food in these cultures.

Lizards are not usually perceived as clean, appealing, or tasty animals in places where they are not eaten. People likely associate them more with the wild and with reptiles like snakes rather than with livestock suitable for eating.

If someone has never tried lizard meat or seen it sold for food, they are far less likely to want to eat it. Food choices are heavily driven by culture. Lizards are simply not ingrained in the food culture for the majority of humans.

Availability of Other Meat Sources

With the wide domestication and farming of animals like cows, chickens, and pigs over centuries, humans have access to abundant sources of meat. There is little need to turn to non-traditional animal protein like lizards with so many easier livestock options.

In areas without large livestock, fishing and hunting certain wild game provides more substantial meat compared to trying to gather tiny lizards. Only in very isolated regions with limited food animals would lizard gathering begin to make sense.

But for most cultures, lizards do not need to be a food source thanks to the availability of higher quality proteins. The developed livestock industry removes the need to eat insects, rodents, or lizards for survival. So lizards get passed over as a meat option.

Geographic, Cultural, and Situational Factors in Eating Lizards

While most humans do not eat lizards, they are part of traditional cuisine in some specific geographic and cultural contexts:

Pacific Island Nations

Coconut milk, taro root stews, and roasted lizard are part of traditional cuisine in many Pacific Island and Polynesian cultures. Species like Mourning Gecko are said to taste like chicken.


Some rural parts of Thailand, Cambodia, and China include lizards such as tokay geckos in folk medicine cuisine as a health tonic.


Northern Mexico has a history of eating texcalametl or Regal Horned Lizard stewed in salsa as part of Sonoran cuisine.

American South

Fried or stewed lizards are eaten in some areas of the rural American south, especially among Cajun traditions in the Louisiana bayous.


In tropical developing regions, lizards like iguanas may be eaten as bushmeat protein by isolated tribes if larger game is scarce.

Famine Food

Historically, people may have eaten lizards like any small animal in times of dire famine when no other food was available.

So while lizard eating is extremely rare in modern, developed societies, some cultures incorporate them into traditional food customs. Even where they are not a staple food, lizards can serve as a supplemental protein source in rural areas with limited livestock.

Nutritional Composition of Lizard Meat

Though not a common food item, lizard meat is edible and contains nutrients. The nutritional value varies by species based on habitat, diet, activity level, and anatomy:

Nutrient Amount Per 3oz Lizard Meat
Calories 60-110
Protein 13-19g
Fat 1-5g
Saturated Fat 0.5-1g
Iron 1-3mg

Lizard meat tends to be low calorie, low fat, high protein, and contain iron along with B vitamins. So while eating lizards is limited to certain cultural niches, their meat can offer nutritional value.

Environmental Impacts of Harvesting Lizards

Gathering wild lizards for food does raise some environmental concerns in certain areas:

  • Overharvesting local populations leading to extinction risk for rare species.
  • Disrupting fragile island ecosystems where reptiles are key species.
  • Spreading invasive species by transporting them for meat.
  • Possible bioaccumulation of toxins like pesticides in the meat.

Unregulated, indiscriminate take of wild lizards is not sustainable ecologically. But in places with healthy robust populations and managed harvesting, eating limited numbers of abundant lizard species may not have negative impacts.

As with any wildlife, they must be gathered conservatively to avoid damaging ecosystems. Any medicinal use should also consider conservation status and use only ethical, sustainable sources.

Potential Benefits of Expanding Use of Lizards for Food

In areas where lizard populations are plentiful but food insecurity exists, they could serve as an additional protein source with some health and economic benefits:

  • Help combat malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies
  • Provide income from gathering and selling lizard meat
  • Make use of locally available food resources
  • Give access to meat for vegetarians opposed to eating mammals/birds

However, risks of overexploiting wild populations would need to be minimized through careful monitoring and management. Any harvesting increases would require updated food safety guidance to prevent illness.

But where sustainably and responsibly integrated into local cuisines, lizard meat could offer nutritional and financial benefits for certain communities if appropriate regulations are put in place. Their small size limits their use as a primary food animal, though they may continue to supplement diets in some regions.

Challenges of Expanding acceptability of Lizards as Food

While lizard meat offers benefits in the right context, there are challenges to encourage its wider acceptance and use as food:

  • Overcoming cultural taboos and perceptions.
  • Ensuring food safety with proper handling and cooking.
  • Preventing overfishing and managing sustainable harvesting.
  • Getting consistent meat quantity and quality.
  • Keeping costs low enough for affordability.
  • Developing tasty recipes to drive consumption.

It would take significant effort in education, marketing, and regulation to make lizard meat appealing and safe to new consumers. Their small size also limits production scalability.

Realistically, lizards may never become a staple protein source. But niche use in some regional cuisines seems likely to continue sustainably.


While not a globally utilized food source, lizards are edible and nutritious. Their use is limited to certain cultural traditions and situations where larger livestock is unavailable. Small size, difficulty farming, disease risks, cultural taboos, and abundant alternative meats restrict wider popularity. But managed, sustainable harvesting could provide nutritional benefits regionally. Interest in exotic cuisine could drive niche demand for ethically, responsibly sourced lizard meat. However, major obstacles prevent it from becoming a scalable protein alternative worldwide. Still, lizard eating persists as a custom among some peoples, showing the diversity of foods within human culture.

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