They don’t grow on trees, but they do breed and live among them. And through the ages, these “amphibious” reptiles have been as closely associated with The Sunshine State as our world-famous citrus and powder-white beaches. Alligators. They’ve received a bad rap. Because contrary to popular folklore,(LINK) it is they who for centuries have provided people with a succulent, healthy protein meat source. From the ancient indigenous tribes of southeastern North America, to today’s health-conscious diner, alligator has played an important dietary role in our nation’s history. And it’s growing.
A 5OO-Year Popularity
Five centuries ago, the early Spanish explorers who discovered the Americas were introduced to huge reptiles that they promptly christened El lagarto. They encountered them at every watering hole, river crossing and moss-draped swamp. And while they feared them, they also hunted them after discovering that el lagarto slow-roasted over smouldering hardwood fires was mighty good eatin’.
They really started something because the tradition prevailed. As the early pioneers began settling and homesteading the most southern parts of the Southeastern United States, the easily-available “Gator Tail” became a meat staple for many wilderness families.
Popularity Breeds Scarcity
As with most cases of supply and demand, “gator tail” today is far more difficult to come by. Sought after throughout the world, noted American European and Asian chefs pay premium prices for the privilege of serving the delicious, low-fat, low-cholesterol white meat in their restaurants frequented by the rich and famous.
State and federal regulations limit the harvest of wild alligators to “sustainable use:’ Added to harvests at around two hundred alligator farms throughout the southeastern United States, this yields only about 1.8 million pounds of alligator meat annually, which is supplied to the domestic and international markets. Compared to the enormous annual production of beef, pork and poultry products, that’s just a ripple in the river. So it’s no wonder that ~c demand continues to exceed supply.
Enter Alligator Bob
In 1990, lifelong Florida — alligator trapper Robert “Alligator Bob” Young realized that many visitors to the South left without an opportunity to taste Florida’s other natural food resource. And they certainly weren’t at that time able to have it picked, packed and shipped home for friends to share the experience. So he embarked upon a wild adventure to change all that by developing an alligator meat product that was portable, snackable, presentable and shelf stable; one that was also delicious enough to be labelled a “Unique, Edible Florida Souvenir.”
In 1994, Alligator Bob’s Gourmet Alligator Meat Snacks were born” And the rest, as they say, is history.