What is Squab?
For the majority of us, the word “squab” is only used when mistaking the word used for a non-magical person born to a wizard (squib) in Harry Potter books. However, the real meaning of squab is actually very different – especially given that you can cook one but really shouldn’t be cooking the other. This article is all about the former, where we give you all the information about what squab is and answer all your most frequently asked questions about pigeon meat.
What Is Squab?
A squab bird is a young pigeon that has never flown before, also referred to as a fledgling. While squab meat may not always sound appealing, this is often because the pigeon is usually thought of as an annoying “flying rat” that likes to swoop low in major cities. In fact, these are rock doves – a relative of the pigeon – and are definitely not as appealing as their pigeon counterparts. Instead, squab meat was one of the first domesticated poultries in the world and has been known, all over the world, as being a delicacy.
A Brief History of Squab
Preceding chickens, squab is believed to have been used since the ancient Egyptians as a great source of food. These young birds first became known as a reliable source of protein that was easy to come by and cheap to buy. That said, it soon became known for it’s delicate taste and ended up in some of the most important courses for the most important upper-class citizens, across the world.
Squab farming was easy, with little to no maintenance required, as the main work required is to simply harvest the nest of adult pigeons. These days, the majority of squab breeding happens in the US, particularly around California and South Carolina – and finding the younger pigeons is an easy task, too. All the farmer needs to do is give the crates a shake and those who fly away are simply too old to be considered a squab bird.
Squab Meat Nutritional Information
For every hundred grams of squab meat, the nutritional information is as follows:
- Calories 213
- Total Fat 13 g
- Saturated fat 3.7 g
- Cholesterol 116 mg
- Sodium 57 mg
- Potassium 256 mg
- Protein 24 g
While the squab meat is relatively high in fat, many people feel that the delicate flavor is worth the added calories, especially as so little is saturated fat. You can also see that squab is very high in protein, meeting nearly half of the recommended daily intake of this in a relatively small amount. They’re also a great source of vitamins and minerals, providing as much as 30% of your recommended daily intake, as you can see below.
- Vitamin A 1%
- Vitamin C 4%
- Calcium 1%
- Iron 32%
- Vitamin D 1%
- Vitamin B-6 30%
- Cobalamin 6%
- Magnesium 6%
What Does Squab Taste Like?
The squab taste, like most poultry, comes from the feeding regime given when being raised. In the same way that a corn-fed chicken will have a deeper range of flavors and more nutty quality, a squab bird will have a different taste depending on what it has been fed. For this reason, farmers take great pride in their ability to produce fresh-tasting squab meat.
Squab can also be cooked in a variety of ways, unlike the more well-known poultry of chicken, and can even be served rare. This allows squab meat to be more open to different cooking techniques to boot. Thus, the taste of squab can vary wildly between farm and restaurant, as well the chef – particularly if marinated, although many would consider this nothing short of a crime.
Overall, however, the best way to describe the taste and texture of squab meat is to call it somewhat of a cross between the dark, oyster meat of the chicken and the breast of the duck. It has many of the same qualities, being that the texture is extremely delicate since the squab lacks the fibrous nature of older birds while being full of flavor.
What’s the Difference Between Pigeon and Squab?
As you can imagine, those in the food industry can be a little precious about naming squab “pigeon meat” and, given the effort that goes into making good quality squab meat, this is understandable. However, the main difference between pigeon and squab is the age of the bird before being killed and cooked. Often, squab will be between 4 to 6 weeks old, and therefore lacks the tougher, more fibrous meat of pigeon.