Recently I stumbled across an ad I had clipped long ago for ostrich meat. This novel entry into American cuisine had a meteoric life cycle. The question is begged, "What's next?”
That night, thanks to some particularly vicious salsa, I had a vision of one possible future:
As American taste buds grow more adventurous, innovative producers, such as Frank Lee Bonquers, of Paisley Flats, Ind., are responding to the demand for new and unusual, even unwholesome, products to satisfy this craving. Bonquers is on the ground floor of the hot new trend to "The Other Blue Meat”—opossum.
"Stop right there,” Bonquers told me as I toured his state-of-the-art confinement farm. "We prefer to use the term ‘possum' instead of ‘opossum,' to help pronunciation. The latter word also makes our product sound sort of Irish, rather than all-American.”
This evidence of marketing savvy was echoed in his overall vision of the future of marsupial ranching. "Possums have all the glamour of armadillos but with an attractive cuddly quality that consumers cotton to,” he explained. Moreover, he noted that to date, even the most liberal animal rights groups have been indifferent on possum consumption, which could be a big marketing advantage.
They will eat anything. Bonquers showed me around his impressive, yet bizarre, operation. "We invented most of the facilities you are seeing,” he said proudly. Actually, this fact would have been painfully apparent to even the most casual observer.
Nonetheless, we inspected every facet of his pioneering possum production facility.
Riding on the popularity of the hit TV series "The Beverly Hillbillies,” although some 40 years late, Bonquers has devised an ingenious production plan to supply exotic markets with fresh (as if you can tell) possum meat.
"We think possum fills a much-needed gap on the menus of America,” he said inspirationally. "I got the idea from visiting France in 1990. Those guys will eat anything!”
His farm of some 240 acres is devoted to raising and—even more horrifically—breeding the finest possums in America, a per-haps oxymoronic goal. "I often scour the countryside at night for new strains I can incorporate into our lines,” he said. He showed me several specimens he had captured recently over by Fool's Holler, and beauties they were, too.
- Mid-November 2009