The Underutilized Food Andrew Zimmern Thinks You Should Eat More Of

It's no secret that parts of the world are facing a food crisis as we speak. Environment Reports states that more than a billion people worldwide are malnourished and it's generally agreed that feeding the world's projected population of 10 billion people by 2050 (via BBC) will require major adjustments and innovations in the way we produce food. While farming technology and other measures play an important role in feeding the planet, alternative food sources will need to be part of the equation (via WRI).

Andrew Zimmern has thoughts on the topic of alternative food sources. The accomplished and widely respected chef-entrepreneur, philanthropist, and television personality has hosted a hit Travel Channel show, written cookbooks, and has won multiple James Beard and Emmy awards. He is also a proponent of sustainability, and has advocated for reducing food waste as well as futuristic innovations like "cellular agriculture."

Often, when people (including Zimmern) talk about sustainability, the focus is on plant-based foods (via UCLA). But when the chef, in a recent episode of "Ask Me Anything" on his "Spilled Milk" blog, was asked "What is one food source you think is underutilized in America?" his answer shocked some folks.

Hooved animals are more sustainable

Zimmern says a category of meats, including donkey, is the most underutilized food. "I happen to think it's all the hooved animals," Zimmern shared with his viewers, adding "Everyone's going to write me horrific letters." 

While this may be shocking, Zimmern shares that a small breed of donkey is commonly consumed and favored in other areas around the world, like China. Also falling into this category is goat, which Zimmern contends is the most widely eaten meat outside of the United States, although this common claim has been disputed per HuffPost. However, both goat and lamb meat are nutritious and may be good options for meat eaters.

So what makes hooved animals more sustainable? Zimmern explains that they can be raised in a relatively short period of time and that they're "easy to manage" because they do not require the "factory farming" techniques that go along with the meats commonly eaten in the U.S. If carnivores "diversify our food source, the better off we'll be," Zimmern adds.

But donkey flavor? It's "delicious," says Zimmern, adding that if he seared you a good cut of it, "you would think it's the best piece of veal you ever ate." An old Chinese folk saying also praises donkey meat, which has been consumed in the region since the Ming Dynasty, according to The World of Chinese. It goes: "In heaven, there is dragon meat; on earth, there is donkey meat."