Columbia Missourian, Missouri Football

Missouri would rather beat Gators than eat gator

COLUMBIA — It was a hearty meal the Mississippi football team sat down to eat. Deep fried nuggety-goodness with some kind of Cajun dipping sauce. The protein inside all that breading: alligator.

Before the Rebels got whacked by No. 11 Florida last week, coaches fed the football team some alligator for its Friday meal. The serving dish was adorned with a sign that read: “Eat some gator before you go eat the Gators.”

But when Florida comes to Missouri this weekend, nothing exotic is on the Tigers’ menu, said team spokesman Chad Moller.

“We don’t have plans to do anything like this,” he wrote in an email. “That’s not something coach (Gary Pinkel) has ever done.”

That’s not a total surprise, especially since the menu item backfired on Mississippi last week in a 38-10 drubbing.

But if Missouri wanted to chow down on this amphibious carnivore, it’d take a bit of planning.

Unusual proteins take six weeks of planning before they find their way on a menu, said MU Dining Services spokesman Michael Wuest.

Someone has to come up with the concept for the meal (in this case — hypothetically — Tigers eating alligators), then dining services staffers have to locate that much alligator meat, get it shipped to Columbia and figure out the best way to cook it.

Then, it’s dinner time.

“I think it’s definitely something we could do if we had enough time for it,” Wuest said.

But dining services doesn’t feed Missouri athletes, who have their own cafeteria at the Mizzou Athletic Training Complex. Levy Restaurants provides those meals and declined requests for comment.

Dining halls used to routinely hype up “Jayhawk roasts” the week before Missouri played Kansas in football or basketball, Wuest said.

Last year, dining services tried to serve a whole hog and pulled pork sandwiches before Missouri played Arkansas, whose mascot is the Razorback pig. But the whole hog concept never came together. Menu planners didn’t get the hog request in time to pull the meal off.

Alligator, Wuest said, would be a whole different kind of undertaking for two pretty basic reasons: It would be difficult to get that meat to landlocked Missouri, and dining services’ chefs wouldn’t know how to cook it.

One pound of tenderized alligator meat from CajunGrocer.com, an Amazon of sorts for seafood treats like crawfish, oysters, crabs and frog legs, costs $13.65. A representative from the company’s ordering assistance hotline estimated one pound of alligator meat would feed two Missouri football players.

And with the size of the football program, she said, it’s probably best to order 50 pound of alligator.

Oh, and that meat can be overnighted with FedEx or UPS.

“People say the best part is the tail,” said ‘Alligator’ Bob Young, the owner of Alligator Bob’s Premium Meat Snacks in Thonotosassa, Florida. He sells alligator jerky and meat sticks and used to sell frozen tenderloin fillets.

“And the tail starts behind the snout,” he said, “because we use it all.”

One alligator farmed for meat grows to about 5 to 6 feet in length in three years, he said, and bears about seven pounds of meat. A full-grown wild alligator can grow up to 15 feet in length and weigh 1,000 pounds.

By that math, it would take eight farmed alligators to feed the Missouri football program.

Alligator isn’t a bad pregame meal from a nutritional perspective. It has 46 grams of protein in one 3.2-ounce serving, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

That’s 19 more grams of protein than a 3-ounce serving of chicken. That makes sense, Wuest said, because Jayhawk roasts never seemed quite filling enough.

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