Is Lion Meat Legal in the US? Exploring Taste, Cooking, and Ethics of Consuming Rare Exotic Meats

Lion meat is legal in the US, often likened to a mix of beef and chicken; its taste is mild but distinct. It’s safe to eat with proper prep, but check local laws before trying this exotic meat.

how does lion meat taste

You’ll find modestly exotic meats like bison, alligator, wild boar, moose meat and ostrich meat at many restaurants around the country, but what about an incredibly rare type of meat like lion meat?

Do American restaurants sell lion meat**?

What does lion meat taste like, and is it legal to sell in the United States? How is lion meat prepared? Read on to learn more about this exotic meat.

**This article coves the Panthera leo, the lion species with a range from Africa to Asia, and otherwise known as an African Lion. We are not covering Puma Concolor, sometimes known as the Mountain Lion of North America, even though many aspects of this article can pertain to mountain lion meat as well. Mountain Lions are listed as species of Least Concern, but are still regulated under the Lacey Act and have special state-level regulations in the United States.

Price of Meat does remind readers that purchasing & consuming meat in violation of the Lacey Act or Endangered Species Act is not only super-illegal, but also super-uncool. Please be cool and go above and beyond in support of conservation. While lions are not endangered currently, learn what you can do to support endangered species and to support the importance of predators in an ecosystem. This article is provided for educational purposes in the spirit of human curiosity & history. Please skip to How Lion Meat Is Obtained? to read our ethical statement.

Price of Meat Editorial Team

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Can You Eat lion?

Humans can eat lion meat just like many other bushmeats (including species we ban in Western countries) or meat from wild game animals. With proper preparation and cooking, lion meat is safe to eat.

People in regions where lions live have eaten lion meat for as long as lions and humans have coexisted as hunters.

Although it’s a rare dish or saved for honored guests, lion meat does appear on tables in some African countries and occasionally in India.

In the modern era, lion meat is still a very exotic meat, but it’s on the menus of some restaurants around the world, and it’s also sold by some meat markets for meals at home.

The sale and consumption of lion meat aren’t legal everywhere, so it’s always best to check with local laws before buying it. However, the United States doesn’t have a ban on lion meat, so it’s legal to buy and consume it.

Interestingly, many people in the United States don’t even realize it’s legal until a state or jurisdiction tries to ban it. In 2013, the state of Illinois tried to ban lion meat, and according to an article published by NPR, many people were surprised that lion meat was even legal to sell and eat. 

In fact, lion meat sold by markets and restaurants is legal throughout the United States, as long as suppliers follow the rules for harvesting and preparing it, just like any other consumable meat in the country.

Lions are not a federally protected endangered species, and the FDA considers lion meat a consumable game meat. It is, though, regulated by multiple agencies for import.

How Does Lion Meat Taste?

An animal’s diet impacts how it tastes when eaten. Lions are carnivores, which means they only eat meat, and the meat of a carnivore like a lion tastes different from the meat of a herbivore like a bison or an omnivore like a bear. A herbivore eats a plant-based diet, and an omnivore eats plants and meat. 

You may know the cliché “tastes just like chicken,” which is often used to describe the taste of unusual meat like alligator or frog.

However, it’s worth comparing lion meat to mainstream meats because it gives you a good idea as to whether you might want to taste the meat. 

How do people describe lion meat? Lion meat may feel tougher than the meat of a herbivore like a bison, but it has a milder taste than you might expect.

Some have compared lion meat to a cross between chicken and beef, which means it should taste familiar to the tastes you’re already acquainted with if you consume meals that include beef and chicken regularly. Some have even compared lion meat to pork.

Like any other meat, lion meat may be consumed in many forms, from steaks to hamburgers. The preparation of the meat, as well as the other food cooked alongside it, will impact the experience of eating it.

In some cases, restaurateurs will mix lion meat with other meats, such as in a burger patty that combines lion meat and traditional beef. 

Does lion meat taste good?


Deciding whether a particular type of meat tastes good comes down to opinion, and like any other food, some people will like eating lion meat, and others may not prefer the taste.

Someone who adopts a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle because they don’t like the taste of meat but are still interested in trying new things may want to try lion meat because it doesn’t have a strong and overwhelming flavor like some types of meat.

When prepared properly, lion meat is easily consumed and doesn’t present a “gamey” flavor like other wild meats.

For example, people often avoid venison (deer / elk) because it’s difficult to prepare and is often too lean to tenderize, which results in tough eating.

Others may avoid meat like snake meat because it’s so susceptible to tasting like whatever the snake ate in life, whether that’s grasshoppers or mice.

Lion meat, on the other hand, represents a solid option for anyone who wants to try the wild game meat of a carnivore. There’s a perception that carnivore meat doesn’t cook well, but that opinion mostly stems from the limited experience most people have with wolf meat and other carnivores that aren’t familiar sights in restaurants.

Lion meat is a type of bushmeat that can result in a pleasant meal when prepared correctly and with the experience that comes with cooking wild meat.

For anyone who hasn’t tried lion meat before, it may be helpful to eat it prepared in different ways and with different accompanying foods.

The only drawback to experimentation is that lion meat isn’t on every store shelf, so purchasing mass quantities for experimenting with different dishes may become quite a costly project.

How is lion meat obtained?

According to a man in California who sells exotic meats like lion meat, the meat comes from farms. At one time, according to an article published by CBS News, lions were primarily killed for their fur or by big game hunters for sport.

However, a growing interest in lion meat created a demand for the meat, too, rather than just the fur.

It’s important to note that, at least in the United States, it’s not legal to hunt lions and then sell the meat. However, lions may be killed when they’re raised on a farm, and the farmers may sell the meat.

Captive-raised lion meat is completely legal in the United States. If you decide to buy lion*** meat, you will absolutely want to ask the seller or restaurant where they source their lion meat due to the Lacey Act.

Sellers and restaurants who obtain their lion meat from international sources must have the proper license for importing meat from another country. 

If you are actually deciding whether to buy lion meat or not…we do recommend that you pause and try explaining your ethical reasoning to your local 5 year old. They are great at calling bull**** on complicated adult ideas. You might have a few holes in your logic, and will almost certainly discover a better use of your limited time & money.

Price of Meat Editorial Team

How is lion meat cooked and prepared?

Just like most types of meat, lion meat may appear in almost any form and in almost any type of traditional meat dish. People may consume lion meat in steak form or with all the fixings of a cheeseburger.

Essentially, any dish where you might include beef, bison, pork, or chicken is appropriate for lion meat.

According to an article published by Time, one restaurant in Arizona decided to include lion meat in their tacos. The restaurant was already experienced in serving exotic meats and had served tacos with python, turtle, and alligator meat in the past.

Unfortunately, the restaurant decided to cancel the promotion. An article published by ABC News indicated the promotion ruffled too many feathers of local residents.

Why do U.S. restaurants keep trying to sell lion meat?

Restaurants sell lion meat for a variety of reasons. Often, restaurants already serve exotic meats or game meats and want to expand their menus to include ultra-rare options.

Meats like bison and alligator, while considered exotic, aren’t so rare anymore. Seeing a bison burger on the menu at a restaurant no longer causes most people to raise an eyebrow.

However, lion meat remains a true rare specialty for most restaurants. Rare meat dishes can lure new customers who want to try exotic dishes.

The opportunity to sell rare meat can also allow chefs to experiment and create new dishes that are unique to their establishment. As long as lion meat remains interesting to consumers, it’s likely that restaurants will continue to offer it.

Lab-Grown Lion Meat Might Become a Reality

What if you want to try lion meat without actually eating lion meat? It may sound like a contradiction, but the possibility is there.

For those who want to continue enjoying wild game meats but are concerned about the environmental impact of their actions, some companies are trying to create lab-grown lion meat.

According to an article in The Independent in the United Kingdom, some companies are trying to encourage people to adopt a plant-based lifestyle by offering meat alternatives grown in a lab.

The story indicates that some Michelin-starred restaurants will serve the plant-based meat once it’s passed regulatory approval.

Lion meat is just one of the many exotic game meats under development by various companies. The goal is to reduce the need to farm animals for food, which proponents believe can preserve wild habitats, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve land and water resources.

Lion Meat Will Always Be Exotic

While it may sound incredible to enter a restaurant and choose a lion meat dish off the menu, the opportunity is there for those who seek it. Lion meat is legal and available in the United States, as well as in many countries around the world.

So What Does Lion Meat Taste Like?

Lion meat is described as having a rich, gamey flavor, similar to wild venison or pork. It is often compared to tasting like a cross between beef and lamb. However, consuming lion meat is illegal in many countries due to conservation concerns and the protection of these majestic animals.

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