Exotic meats becoming more popular with Canadian diners

September 27 2016

Diners in Canada are increasingly seeking alternatives to traditional meats such as chicken, pork and lamb.

According to data from market research specialist Euromonitor International, consumption of non-traditional meals such as camel, rabbit, venison and horse went up by an average of 10.6 per cent a year between 2010 and 2015.

Interestingly, these figures still don't account for some other interesting options that are appearing on more and more restaurant menus, such as bison, zebra, buffalo and ostrich.

So the figures from Euromonitor International, published by CTV News, might only represent the tip of the iceberg.

In which case, what is fuelling this trend?

Michael von Massow, an assistant professor at the University of Guelph's food, agricultural and resource economics department, believes it is down to fine-dining restaurants catering to a more demanding market.

Indeed, he said diners are coming to these establishments not simply to enjoy a good meal, but to savour food experiences they cannot get at home.

"Restaurants are pushing the envelope to try and give us an experience," Mr von Massow commented.

Another contributor to this trend is the growing multi-cultural population in parts of Canada.

This is certainly the observation of Shai Bomze, director of sales at Toronto meat distributor La Ferme, who says some meats that would be considered exotic in Canada are regarded as staples in various cultures.

As a result, Canadian restaurateurs and food retailers have had to make sure they appeal to the full range of customers they are targeting, by adding the likes of venison, bison and duck to their offerings.

Of course, visitors to fine-dining establishments might need to be prepared to pay a premium price for something that's a bit more unusual than the norm.

After all, it costs more for a retailer and restaurant to procure stocks of non-traditional meats than it would for standard options that are easier to come by.

Peter Sanagan, owner of Toronto-based butchers Sanagan's Meat Locker, is one person who charges extra for exotic meats in order to cover his costs.

For instance, wild boar at his establishment costs between $12 and $22 a pound, while venison and elk might cost anything from $18 to $30 a pound depending on the cut. Meanwhile, game birds are likely to cost $15 to $30 per piece, subject to size.

But if diners are heading out specifically with the goal of eating something they wouldn't have at home, it's likely that most won't mind paying a bit extra in order to get a unique culinary experience.