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Q: You look really big and meaty. Are you edible? —Hungry Hal
A: Um, are YOU edible? In case you didn’t get the memo, I’m on top of the food chain, and I plan on staying there, thank you very much. There aren’t a lot of creatures out there that can go toe-to-toe with me, after all. But yes, I am edible—mostly.
Under all that fur, I’m just another mammal, and like most mammals, bears’ meat is edible. To be honest with you, I’m not above a nibble myself: Scientists have recorded grizzlies preying on smaller black bears where their ranges overlap. Cannibalism isn’t unknown, either. Most of the culprits are large male bears, who may eat cubs and smaller individuals when things get desperate. With that said, I tend to be the solitary type, mostly coming together around seasonal food sources and during mating, so bear is definitely a sometimes food for me. (Hey, nature is harsh.)
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Human hunters can, and do, eat us too—you’re our only real predator, after all. Bear meat is definitely red meat. Some people have compared bear to gamey beef, but its flavor can change drastically depending on what the bear’s been chowing down on before you chowed down on it (some people say bears are borderline inedible after salmon season.) If you get your hands on some roast-of-me, I recommend cooking it thoroughly to avoid infesting yourself with Trichina spiralis, a nasty parasite I often carry in my flesh. The same stuff lurks in undercooked pig. Trust me, you don’t want it.
With that said, there are parts of me that you should definitely stay away from. Polar bear liver, for example, contains toxically-high levels of vitamin A; there are stories of entire Arctic expeditions sickening and dying after chowing down on it. Serves them right.