Frogs and alligators bear no similarities in their appearances to chickens. But when some people taste these unique meats for the first time, their review commonly ends up being, “It tastes like chicken.” So, what exactly makes these meats taste fowl? 

          John Gonzalez, an animal and meat scientist at the University of Georgia.
John Gonzalez, an animal and meat scientist at the University of Georgia, studies muscle growth and function.
University of Georgia

Scientists have served up different possibilities of evolutionary roots, with chickens and modern reptiles descending from the diapsids group, linking them as relatives and connecting some physiological traits. However, food scientists primarily attribute this phenomenon to biochemical composition.  

“Ultimately, [flavor] comes down to the fat composition and the muscle profile, while the amount of sugar plays a minor role,” said John Gonzalez, an animal and meat scientist at the University of Georgia. 

According to Gonzalez, the flavor of meat derives from the complex combination of these molecules. During cooking, lipids in the meat undergo thermal degradation, and the Maillard reaction, a nonenzymatic browning reaction, breaks down protein and sugar.¹

Muscle physiology also plays a significant role in flavor. Chicken is considered a white meat due to its relatively low myoglobin content, which gives the meat a lighter color and milder flavor than red meats like beef or lamb. Comprised of white muscle fibers, chicken breast and wings rely more on glycogen than myoglobin since they are specialized for more sporadic and brief energy demands.

Likewise, unique meats such as frogs and alligators are also considered white meat. They boast a leaner meat profile, a palatable flavor, and a chicken-like texture. “[By having comparable muscle profiles], it is most likely going to contribute a similar meat flavor component,” said Gonzalez. This commonality bridges the culinary experience of these distinct meats. That’s food for thought!

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  1. Jayasena DD, et al. Asian-Australas J Anim Sci. 2013;26(5):732-742.