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Louisiana History: Hippo Meat Almost Replaced Beef

Matt Cardy, Getty Images

Hippo meat was almost the answer to an American beef shortage that occurred towards the end of the 20th century… and it was all supposed to start in Louisiana.

Jon Mooallem, author of “Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America” recently published an article in The Atavist that suggests importing hippopotami into Louisiana was a proposed solution a couple of political visionaries wanted to pursue as a means for cleaning out the waterways and feeding the American people.

While it may sound a bit insane to think that this turn of events could have put this country in a position where the population was living off hippo burgers and steaks, in a strange way, the idea made logical sense. In a program released earlier this year called “The American Life,” Mooallem explains the motive behind this “weird” idea.

“The swamps all on the Gulf Coast, you can’t have a cow trudging through a swamp eating muddy water. It’s not going to survive. You can’t graze it there. But you could take a hippopotamus and put it in that landscape, and it would eat aquatic plants. So the hippopotamus was this– today we’d call it a very disruptive technology. It was going to turn something that seemed worthless and leverage it into millions of tons of meat to solve this big crisis.”

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