Discover the Flavor of Shark Meat: What Does it Taste Like?

Shark meat is a sustainable, delicacy with a meaty texture, often likened to chicken or alligator. Despite its ammonia scent, proper preparation yields a flavorful dish.

how does shark meat taste

When people think of sharks, the frightening image of a top apex predator prowling the world’s oceans probably jumps to the forefront of their minds.

Many people wouldn’t look at a shark, drooling and salivating because they can’t wait to have it for dinner. However, people do eat – and enjoy – shark meat.

In 2019, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, commonly known as NOAA, pushed for consumers to buy shark meat from U.S.-based fisheries because it’s deemed a sustainable food source.

We’ll cover the highly justified & necessary campaigns against shark finning and harvesting endangered shark species. But for now, it is important to note that sharks, like mammals, are a diverse Class of animals with a range of species & habitats (unlike dolphins, which are a Family within the Class Mammalia).

As NOAA is a federal agency, the U.S. government literally advocated for people to put shark meat (from sustainable fisheries & species) on their plates – or start eating more of it.

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. Learn what you can do to support endangered sea life today.

Price of Meat Editorial Team

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Are Sharks Hunted Anymore?

Shark Hunt

Sharks are still hunted throughout the world. There wouldn’t be a demand for shark meat without it being harvested.

What’s important to pay attention to is how sharks are hunted. Not all ways of harvesting sharks for meat are legal or ethical. And, like large mammals & predators, there’s also a divide between legality and ethics.

Unfortunately, there are some places that do not honor worldwide conservation efforts to protect sharks or have huge black markets for their meat.

Ethical Concerns About Shark Hunting

Make no mistake. All over the world’s seas, shark populations are dwindling with many species taking up unfortunate slots on global endangered lists.

While sharks may rule the oceans, humans have been culling the seas for food and resources since time began. Some of the most common reasons that the number of sharks has shrunk include:

  • Shark finning: cutting a shark fin for food, tools, or ornaments.
  • Byfishing: sharks caught as a byproduct while targeting a different fish population
  • Overfishing: depleting shark populations because more are caught than necessary

Shark finning is considered cruel because it can involve live sharks not surviving the procedure. Finning is the practice of only removing the fins, tossing the shark back into the water, and letting it suffer a slow death.

From a culinary standpoint, that’s extremely wasteful because only 95 percent of the shark gets used. Ethically, it’s undeniably brutal.

Like turtle soup, shark fin soup may be a tradition, but it’s a culinary tradition that must end and move into the history books.

Byfishing and overfishing are inconsiderate and excessive, respectively. While each is a problem for sharks and other marine life, these issues are less targeting than finning.

The common threads that run through each part of the ethical concerns about shark hunting are irresponsibility, greed, and disregard.

However, there is good news! There are concerted efforts all over the world to either reestablish dwindling shark populations or protect the species that are endangered. 

What’s Different About Shark Meat Markets in the U.S.

NOAA manages about 43 different species of shark, which are all from the Atlantic Ocean. None of those species are considered endangered (though some, like the Great White are listed as vulnerable or threatened).

Only two of those species, the scalloped hammerhead shark, and the Oceanic whitetip shark are deemed to be endangered. Neither of those types of sharks is allowed to be freely harvested. 

There are shark species that are in higher demand than others by commercial markets. Interestingly, those more popular edible sharks have experienced a population boom. Increased demand created a need to increase supply.

So, the U.S. government employed conservation strategies to extend further protection to those species which actually bumped up those shark populations.

NOAA follows the laws set forth by the Endangered Species Act which protects sharks in U.S. waters. So, shark meat markets in the United States are ethically managed.

Is Shark Meat Good To Eat?

Shark Meat

Now that the ethics have been covered, it’s time to dig into everything that some people find delectable about shark meat.

Shark is considered a delicacy. You would have to go to very specific areas, markets, or eating venues to find it.

However, there are people that will travel miles to get shark meat because they thoroughly enjoy its taste. Those factors also contribute to its meat being a bit expensive and harder to locate.

Yet many will swear that it’s well worth the hunt.

Species such as blacktip shark, mako shark, and thresher shark lead the list of what’s deemed to be the tastiest type of meat. Sometimes, to encourage consumption, shark meat might be called by other names on restaurant menus.

Look for fish such as whitefish or grayfish. It may also be called flake. You might even come across shark meat in grocery stores and never know it. Surimi, a popular ingredient substitute for people that are allergic to shellfish, sometimes contains shark meat. 

Besides whales, sharks are one of the largest aquatic animals that exist. Therefore, when shark meat is rendered, there is plenty of it.

The whitish flesh of sharks is thick and firm. Typically, this means it’s great for steaks and other hearty cuts of meat. When harvested, one shark can produce a lot of meat.

This is great for consumer demand and there is a healthy amount of it. As the demand for shark meat seems to be going up and not down, there is a large contingent of seafood lovers that will proudly proclaim that shark meat is absolutely divine.

Does Shark Meat Taste Like Fish?

As with most things pulled from the sea like conch, pollock, crab, or caviar – shark meat does taste of the ocean – as it should! 

Like other marine animals, a freshly harvested shark has a strong scent of ammonia. A shark’s physiology has a specific process. Sharks regulate body functions through osmosis, a biological transport system that keeps them alive. 

During osmosis, sharks produce urea. Urea is a common waste product that living things produce and excrete to function

When sharks die, urea changes into ammonia, and the scent is very strong. For a lot of consumable marine animals, a strong scent of ammonia is usually a bad sign.

For shark meat, it’s the complete opposite. Heavy hues of ammonia signal good meat, but it can be staggering.

Chefs and other culinary artists have learned to address that issue by using marinades, brines, and other methods to take the ammonia smell out of the meat.

Instead, infusing it with extra flavor and proper preparation helps turn it into an amazing seafood dish.

Different people have different opinions on how shark meat tastes. Shark has been compared to a lean beef steak – like top round, which may have a lot to do with its thick and meaty composition.

Shark has also been said to taste similar to fish. Sometimes, that’s not necessarily due to the shark. It may have everything to do with the person.

Why People Taste Shark Meat Differently

Based on an individual’s DNA and food preferences, everyone’s taste buds are biologically diverse. For one person that can’t stand the taste of shark meat, there is another person that will love it.

That’s why some people prefer sweet to savory, some people prefer sour over sweet, some people like salt and some people don’t. Shark meat will taste wonderful to some, but not to others. The only way to know is to try tasting it.

Why Do We Not Eat Shark Meat?

There are multiple reasons that people sometimes avoid eating shark meat – just like other apex predators or large mammals. Taboos, myths, fear factors, and a general lack of knowledge about sharks feed into why some people avoid eating shark meat.

In some cultures, particularly the Pacific Islands, sharks are revered as gods. That alone would discourage consuming an animal that has been worshiped by an entire culture for eons. 

For people that are strongly opposed to eating animals or living organisms that have faced ecological threats, they wouldn’t be gung ho about a plate of shark meat being served to them. 

Others may be negatively swayed by the fear factor. The ocean is a majestic and vast place. Many people are terrified by the sea and even more scared by what may leap out of it.

Think about Jaws, a 70s movie that still evokes a deep fear of sharks. Sensationalist media like Shark Week only perpetuates the myths. Sharks are seen by some as vicious predators that freely attack beachgoers when the mood strikes them.

There are a lot of misconceptions about sharks that feed people’s fear of them. Common myths about sharks include:

  • All sharks attack people.
  • Sharks are always hungry.
  • All sharks are meat-eaters.

None of those things are true, but those myths persist anyway. The thing about people is that it can be difficult to consume things that we fear.

Sharks are one of those things and very offputting to some that may otherwise enjoy shark meat.

Is Shark Meat Toxic to Humans?

Like tuna and swordfish, shark meat is known to have a higher mercury content than other types of foods. As as apex predator, it is subject to bioaccumulation, so high ocean pollution tends to affect sharks more than other ocean life.

High levels of mercury are known to negatively impact the human nervous system. So, many people are wary about eating the flesh of sharks.

It is important to understand that mercury poisoning comes from long-term exposure to consistently high levels of it.

Sharkmeat is considered a delicacy, not a diet staple (similar to ocean sunfish). It’s not meant to be everyday meat that’s served frequently. In moderation, a person can enjoy everything that shark meat has to offer without worrying about mercury poisoning.

If you’ve ever been curious about shark meat and want to try it, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t!

Try going on a culinary adventure and giving shark a try. You may just find that it’s one of the best things you’ve ever tasted.

More FAQs

Does shark taste like fish or meat?

Shark meat can taste like either fish or meat, depending on personal preference. It has a meaty and mild flavor, similar to chicken, but some may find it reminiscent of roadkill. Before consumption, it is important to thoroughly soak shark meat due to the fact that sharks urinate through their skin.

Is shark meat Red or White?

Shark meat is typically white in color and has a firm texture. It is available fresh or frozen, usually in the form of steaks or fillets. The meat is very lean and can be compared to swordfish in terms of both texture and flavor. It can be prepared in various ways such as grilling, poaching, pan-frying, baking, broiling, stir-frying, blackening, smoking, or even cut into 1-inch cubes for kabobs.

Is shark meat Chewy?

Shark meat is not chewy; instead, it has a moist texture that is often compared to alligator or chicken. Its taste is described as meaty and mild, with a hint of sweetness. Grilling, baking, or pan-searing are popular cooking methods that bring out its delicious flavors.

What’s the best eating shark?

The best eating shark is considered to be the Mako Shark. Its flesh is dense and meaty, making it highly versatile for various culinary preparations. With a medium full flavor, it is low in fat. Mako meat is somewhat darker and moister compared to Swordfish.

What is shark meat similar to?

Shark meat is often compared to either chicken or alligator meat in terms of taste. People who have tried this unique elasmobranch fish describe its flavor as distinct, mildly meaty, slightly sweet, and with a moist texture.

Is it legal to eat shark in the US?

The consumption of shark meat is legal in the United States, but it is not considered a healthy choice due to its potential high mercury content.

Is shark red or white meat?

The shark meat is particularly attractive as a food option due to its boneless nature, affordable cost, delightful taste, and its ability to be used in various recipes. It can be obtained in fresh or frozen form, typically in the form of steaks or fillets. The meat itself is extremely lean, possesses a white color, and has a firm texture.

What is shark meat called in restaurants?

Shark meat is known by different names in restaurants and can be prepared and served in various ways. It is obtained from species like mako, thresher, and blacktip, which are specifically caught for their meat. Some alternative names for shark meat include flake, dogfish, grayfish, and whitefish.

Is shark meat delicious?

Shark meat is often described as meaty and mild, with a hint of sweetness. Its texture is moist but not chewy, similar to alligator or chicken. It can be cooked in various ways, but it is particularly delicious when grilled, baked, or pan-seared.

Is shark meat tasteless?

Shark meat is not tasteless; it possesses a unique and distinctive flavor and texture. It offers a mild, sweet taste similar to swordfish or tuna, but with a denser and slightly more fibrous consistency. The flavor can also vary depending on the specific shark species, its diet, and the environment in which it resided.

Can you eat shark in Texas?

Shark can be eaten in Texas, with a daily bag limit of one fish for all allowable shark species including Atlantic sharpnose, blacktip, and bonnethead. When fishing for sharks in state waters, it is required to use non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks.

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