Food & Beverage

Exotic meats: Something worth yakkin' about?

Camel, yak, alligator, kangaroo, boar, ostrich ... why go to the zoo when you can explore the animal kingdom on a plate?

"I made it my mission to get any exotic meat I can," said Tyrone Green, president of the Dark Side of the Moo food truck. "Yak, camel, kangaroo, llama ... whatever I can get that is legal."

The Dark Side of the Moo food truck.
Bo McMillan | CNBC

Food trucks, like the restaurant industry, are trending toward the gourmet. And with the broader tastes of consumers comes a willingness and want to try new things, said Green, whose truck was parked outside CNBC headquarters on Tuesday.

"It's taken a while and it depends on where you go, but in Hoboken and Jersey City they always seem excited to try new stuff," he said, referring to two cities in New Jersey. "Some people will go out with their friends, and while their friends get pizza, my regulars will come get kangaroo burgers."

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Sterling-Rice Group, a brand strategist for food giants such as Darden Restaurants, KFC, Perdue and more, listed alternative protein sources from small producers as one of the top 10 food trends to watch for 2014.

While Green gets his kangaroo, llama and camel meat from Australia through importers, every other meat (with the exception of elk) that he serves, from yak to alligator to wild boar, comes from the United States. In fact, Green's yak supplier is WoodsEdge Wools, a farm in Stockton, New Jersey—not even two hours outside of Hoboken and New York City.

A camel cheeseburger and alligator sausage with sauce piquante from the Dark Side of the Moo food truck.
Bo McMillan | CNBC

"I sell a little bit of llama and alpaca, because they're branded as the cute and fuzzy animals that no one wants to eat. I primarily sell yak—it's bigger and easier to process," said Brent Walker, owner of WoodsEdge.

Walker said that the health benefits of his meat and a growing trend of consumers wanting to know where their food comes from has made his business successful.

"As fast as I can raise them, I can sell the meat," Walker said.

Yak, he said, is 96 percent lean meat and is the only genetically unaltered red meat left in the world.

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With exoticism comes difficulty, and Green said that the meats he imports must either be processed outside of the country to U.S. Department of Agriculture certification or, once imported, processed at a USDA facility before he can use them. But the struggles, he said, are worth it.

"They're raised with no antibiotics or growth hormones and are grass fed. They're higher in protein and are much healthier for you," Green said.

Add those healthful benefits to the fact that beef and veal prices are up 10.7 percent for the year, while pork climbed even higher at 12.2 percent, and perhaps it's time to rethink your summer barbecue.

By Bo McMillan, Special to