Amsterdam Is Feasting on Pigeon Paté

Street birds, not farm-raised squab, are rumored to be the meat of this tasty spread

Pigeon paté most likely resembles the common chicken-based version Photo: Wally Gobetz

Pigeon paté is trending in Amsterdam under the name "game paté," according to the Dutch news site the Parool. Eating pigeons isn't so out of ordinary—usually, they're listed on fancy menus as squab. The origin of these particular pigeons, however, does raise some eyebrows. Rather than farm-raised or hunted down, the pigeons used by delicatessens around the city are supposedly run-of-the-mill street birds, a.k.a. "rats with wings."

According to the Parool, pest controllers sell around 1,000 birds to poultry shops in the city each year, and those transactions take place somewhat under the radar. Forbes reports on the trend: 

Amsterdam residents seem to be divided about the issue. Some think that city pigeons probably eat better than their forest-dwelling cousins, fed by city residents with bread and seeds in parks and plazas. One blogger argued that they should be considered waste-to-food converters, comparable to ocean bottom feeders like shrimp, lobster and catfish.

Butchers reassure customers that the birds are safe for eating. Here's Dutch News, with a translation based on the original Parool story:

Amsterdam poulterer Thomas van Meel told the Parool he turns 'a couple of hundred' into paté every year but is not worried about the health implications. 'We carry out very tight screening on everything that comes in,' he is quoted as saying.

Food officials have warned that urban pigeons might carry any number of problematic microbes, Forbes writes, but that warning may be unsubstantiated. Research on pigeons has shown that the birds are no more associated with bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic disease than chickens or other common poultry species. And cooking pigeon meat—even from street birds—would likely kill any pests the birds were carrying.

That doesn't mean street-trapped pigeons are completely safe to eat, however. As Edible Magazine pointed out, it's what the urban birds are eating—potentially, "rat poison, metals or battery acid"—that paté fans should really worry about. 


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