Why Are Some Meats More Popular in Europe Than the US

Although Americans eat a lot of meat every year, they usually only eat a few specific types of meat. Chicken, beef, and pork make up the majority of meat types in American diets, yet there are so many other options to choose from. In Europe, meats like rabbit, lamb, duck, and liver are incredibly popular, yet they are only rarely eaten in the US by comparison. So why are some meats more popular in Europe than the US?

Rabbit

There are a number of reasons why rabbit meat is more popular in Europe than in the US. One of the main reasons is its status as a pet. Children across America regularly receive rabbits as pets, whether for Easter specifically or as a gift for a birthday or other event. Since they are seen as cute and cuddly creatures, people will have trouble separating the idea of a rabbit as a pet from the health benefits of rabbits.

Rabbit's low popularity also stems from the agricultural industry as a whole. Many farm animals had dual purposes or were low maintenance to raise and breed, making them staples of the agricultural industry. Chickens provide eggs, pigs live off waste products and scraps, and cows provide milk. Rabbits have never had a purpose as farm animals, meaning they did not have the same opportunity to become a popular meat in American households.

Since rabbits never became a popular meat from the agricultural industry, a stigma was attached to the meat itself. Rabbit meat became popular in low-income households since wild rabbits were easy to find and care for, and their breeding habits provide many babies. Raising rabbits properly is not a difficult task, allowing for a high yield of rabbit meat with few rabbits to start with. But because they were seen as food for low-income households, people began to look down on rabbit meat and would not try it in their own homes.

Lamb

Compared to Europe, sheep can be more expensive to raise in America. Sheep are generally associated with ranching and wool production, but the most popular meats in America are cheap to raise on large feedlots and are bred purely for slaughter. Because so few states in America initially raised sheep, the cost for lamb meat would be higher than other meats. This cost barrier prevented many Americans from even trying lamb meat.

This initial barrier has made it difficult for lamb meat to gain popularity in the US. Since lamb isn't popular or readily available, people may not know how to properly cook lamb. When someone finally does try lamb and it is not properly prepared, they will be discouraged from ever trying it again. The unique flavors of lamb can be discouraging to diners who are only used to the comparatively flavorless pork, chicken, and beef they are used to.

Just like with the rabbit, the cuteness factor cannot be ignored. Americans are much more likely to think lambs are cute, fluffy creatures while viewing chickens, pigs, and cows as "just livestock." Their cuteness has been popularized in cartoons and television series alike, making Americans less likely to enjoy the meat provided by a lamb.

Duck

Though duck is just as delicious as other poultry meat, it has not caught on in the US. One of the biggest reasons for this is that it is not possible to raise ducks with the same large-scale agricultural practices that are used to produce chicken and turkey. While chickens only need one square foot of space, ducks need three times that amount. This means that farmers would need a much larger investment to properly raise ducks as they would to raise chickens, discouraging many from making the leap into duck raising.

The increased cost of raising ducks means the cost of duck meat will also be higher. Many Americans never get to experience duck meat because it can only be found on menus in high-end restaurants. Hunters are the few exceptions to this rule, as duck can be a popular target for meat.

As with rabbit and lamb, ducks are very popular creatures. Not only are they seen as cute, but some people have even taken to keeping them as pets. Children love to feed the ducks at the pond, and ducks are all over children's shows in the US. These associations make it less likely for Americans to enjoy duck meat.

Liver

Liver has had a unique history in the US. It was originally seen as a type of meat that should not be consumed. Its low price tag made it popular in low-income homes, attaching a stigma to it in other homes. During World War II, it gained more popularity as meat was rationed to provide food for soldiers. With a lower availability of traditional pork, beef, and chicken within the country occurred, liver and other organ meats were marketed as a great, "patriotic" alternative to eating other meats. Following the war, however, it dropped off in popularity once more.

One reason liver is not as popular in America is that it is slightly more difficult to cook than other meats. When not prepared properly, it will be less appetizing than other meats prepared in the same way. This discourages people from learning how to cook it properly or even including it in their diets. Even though it has a number of health benefits, it never fully caught on in America.