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Vietnam's latest delicacy? Free-range rats

Vietnam's latest delicacy? Free-range rats

In this June 15, 2010 file photo, a rat moves along the ground near the subway tracks at Union Square in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

A popular new delicacy in Vietnam's isn't what you'd expect, or want to imagine: It's rats. But don't worry, eaters aren't munching on scabies-infected urban vermin, but rather the free-range, rural rats of Cambodia's rice fields, which eat a largely organic diet, rat-catchers and farmers explain to the BBC.

"People come from far and wide to buy. They like the big fat ones," says one Vietnamese seller. The meat can be grilled, fried, boiled for soup, or minced for pate, and is said to taste like pork.

"Rat liver and thigh are the most delicious," says the son of one rat trader. Cambodians, who don't often eat rat themselves, export tens of thousands of the rats to Vietnam, selling the meat for about $1.25 a pound; one trader exports as many as two tons to Vietnam each morning during the peak season.

The peak comes in June and July after the rice harvest when rats are low on food and rains are high—sending them straight into traps. Because the rats eat rice stalks, turning them into food also means they aren't damaging the rice crop.

Though highly cringe-worthy, traders insist eating rat is safe: "I think rats are cleaner than chickens or ducks," says one. "Rats eat only roots and rice." (Why not wash down your rat meat with some camel milk?)

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