This publication was written by Leslie L. Glasgow and Lavon A. McCollough and was published in April 1963.
Game animals have provided man with food since the beginning of time. Although their relative importance when compared with domestic animals has decreased, some game animals still provide large quantities of meat for human use. A new possibility is the nutria (Myocastor coypus), a vegetarian, which belongs to the same animal order as the squirrel. It is a newcomer in Louisiana Nutria have increased in numbers in the state from a few animals in 1937 to an estimated three million in 1963. They have extended their range, naturally and with the aid of man, from a few acres near Avery Island to nearly all of the coastal area of the state and for long distances up inland watersheds. It is anticipated that the nutria will eventually occupy most of the marshy regions in the southeastern states and extend its range to the central section of eastern United States.
In 1960-61 the state-wide harvest for fur totaled approximately 800 thousand animals, with an estimated additional 100 thousand being discarded because of small size. Since adult dressed animals average about five pounds and sub-adult animals three pounds, this harvest represents a total of 4,500,000 pounds of nutria meat which was largely discarded or sold as animal food. If the trappers and landowners had realized one dollar and twenty five cents per carcass, this number of animals would have yielded an income of over one million dollars above the value of the fur to persons harvesting the animals.
The nutria is utilized as food not only in South America, its native home, but also in European and Asiatic countries where it has been introduced. Nutria growers on the west coast of the United States have processed some animals for human use by freezing as well as canning. Canned nutria is available in some delicatessen stores of the larger cities in the United States as a specialty item at a very high price. It is sold under various names, one being "ragondin'', the French word for nutria. For the past few years occasional reports have been received from people in Louisiana who proclaimed that nutria meat is a fine food.
Because of the larger number of nutria and because of their potential value as human food, an experimental cooking program was initiated by the School of Forestry and Wildlife Management in cooperation with the School of Home Economics.
The objectives of the experiment were to determine: (1) suitability of nutria for human food, (2) proper methods of cooking nutria, and (3) acceptance of cooked nutria by humans. These objectives were accomplished by subjecting nutria, which had been cooked in various ways, to an edibility and acceptance test.
Funds for the project were provided by a grant from the Louisiana Wild Life and Fisheries Commission. Nutria used in the study were collected through the courtesy of landowners in the vicinity of Abbeville, Louisiana, with collections being made by Alan Ensminger, Fred Webert, Carlos Kays, and William Adams.