Historically, squab, or pigeon in general, have been consumed in many civilizations, including Ancient Egypt, Rome and Medieval Europe. The term squab formerly used to include the meat of all dove and pigeon species, such as the Wood Pigeon, the Mourning Dove, and the now-extinct Passenger Pigeon. Such birds were hunted for their meat, as a cheap and readily available source of protein. The meat from older and wild pigeons is tougher than today's squab, and requires a long period of stewing or roasting to tenderize. The modern preference for young pigeon likely began because it is much easier to collect birds that have not yet flown from the nest.
From the Middle Ages a dovecote (French pigeonnier) was a common outbuilding on an estate that aimed to be self-sufficient; in it squabs were raised for the table. More recently, squab is almost entirely from domestic pigeons—which may be of specialized meat utility breeds—kept on large commercial farms. The meat of Dove and Pigeon game birds hunted primarily for sport is rarely called squab. Back
Usually considered a delicacy, squab is tender, moist and richer in taste than many commonly-consumed poultry meats, but there is relatively little meat per bird. Today, squab is eaten in many countries, including France, America, Italy, the Maghreb, and several Asian countries. Typical dishes include: breast of squab (sometimes as the French salmis), Egyptian mahshi (stuffed with rice and herbs), and the Moroccan dish pastilla.
In some parts of America, squab meat is thought of as exotic or distasteful by many consumers, often as a result of the image of the feral pigeon as an unsanitary urban pest. However, squab produced from specially-raised utility pigeons continues to be a part of the menus at American haute cuisine restaurants such as Le Cirque and The French Laundry. Accordingly, squab is often sold for much higher prices than other poultry, sometimes as high as eight dollars per pound. In Chinese cuisine, squab is a part of celebratory banquets for holidays such as Chinese New Year. The greatest volume of U.S. squab is sold within Chinatowns currently.
Pigeons are also bred for meat, generally called squab and harvested from young birds. Pigeons grow to a very large size in the nest before they are fledged and able to fly, and in this stage of their development (when they are called squabs) they are prized as food. For commercial meat production a breed of large white pigeon, named "King pigeons," has been developed by selective breeding. Breeds of Pigeons developed for their meat are collectively known as Utility Pigeons. Back