Indian state wants rat on the menu

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 August, 2008, 12:00am

Rat could soon be more widely eaten in eastern India under a plan by a state government to promote it as a cheap alternative meat.

The government of Bihar, India's poorest state - with 90 million people, wants to tackle rising food prices.

Rat meat, it believes, should become as common as eating chicken - and should be served in street stalls, restaurants and hotels.

Rat is already eaten by a lower caste in Bihar called the Musahars or 'rat-eaters', but the idea of consuming the animal repulses many Indians. Officials in Bihar hope to overcome people's aversion with creative ways of serving the meat.

'Once people accept it as just another meat like chicken or mutton, it will become popular. It is very high in protein, and the beauty is that we have billions of rats,' said Vijay Prakash, Bihar's head of social welfare.

He wants rat snacks served at bus and train stations and roadside cafes.

Mr Prakash said the rat plan included giving the poor a potential source of income as rat-catchers, and believed he had done the maths to make it work.

'India has about eight rats per person. If rat meat sells for 50 rupees (HK$9) a kilo and each rat weighs a kilo - field rats are fat and heavy - then a poor family can make 150 rupees a day by catching just three rats,' Mr Prakash said.

Under the plan, people will be given training in catching rats.

Rat-themed food festivals will try to help people overcome any aversion to eating rodents.

'Once it becomes as normal as chicken, then I will encourage people to start rat farming,' Mr Prakash said.

Officials also hope more rat-catching will save the state's dwindling grain stocks, much of it already eaten by rodents.

Mr Prakash, however, is yet to sample the meat he promotes.

'Unfortunately - or fortunately - I haven't had rat yet, but my mother has and she says it is very nice,' he said.