Does Donkey Meat Have Health Benefits?

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on May 22, 2022
5 min read

Donkeys have played a significant role throughout human history, especially in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. They have been instrumental in transporting cargo and contributing to agricultural production. Although donkeys were bred as working animals, they are no longer being seen as only aiding in the production of livestock. Instead, donkeys are gaining recognition for the nutritious meat and milk they produce.

 While donkeys are not sold for their meat in many areas, it is a popular food in South America and China. Using donkeys to produce meat, milk, and leather has gained popularity in the last two decades. Here are some of the most common health benefits associated with donkey meat. 

Getting an adequate amount of nutrients in your diet daily is incredibly important to your health. Nutrition is one of the key factors that can positively or negatively affect your health. A variety of foods are needed for full growth and development, particularly during childhood and adolescence. Both vegetables and fruit contain many vitamins and minerals needed to keep the body and immune system strong. Meat is also an important source of nutrients, and red meat contains important vitamins like B12, iron, thiamine, and zinc. 

Because meat can serve as a critical source of protein and contains essential minerals and vitamins, discovering the right type of meat to add to your diet could be tremendously beneficial. The nutritional composition of donkey meat and its health implications suggest that we should view donkey meat as a viable source of protein and a potentially important component of a well-balanced and healthy diet. While not normally considered as meat in the same way buffaloes, bovines, and camels might be, the nutritional richness of donkey meat makes it an excellent substitute for red meat. 

Farmers who hope to breed donkeys for their milk and meat face several challenges despite the potential donkey meat has to stimulate the economic development of numerous countries. The most prevalent reason is that donkey meat has garnered a bad reputation. 

In arid and semi-arid areas, donkey meat is considered an essential source of protein. These animals that are traditionally viewed as working animals, though, are typically butchered at an advanced age. Donkeys slaughtered and sold for meat in their old age often produce meat that is difficult to break down and digest. 

Despite this, due to its perceived health benefits, donkey meat has garnered global popularity, most notably in northern China. 

In the modern-day, more consumers are turning toward health-conscious options and searching for leaner protein sources that contain the same high standard of quality and minimal fat content. While high-protein vegetables are a good choice here, many people still prefer meat. Compared to other types of meat that might otherwise be regarded as suitable for human consumption, such as sheep or cow, previous studies have indicated that donkey meat contains a higher percentage of protein and essential amino acids. Additionally, it is lower in fat, cholesterol, and calorie content. Much more tender than beef, donkey meat contains the same levels of protein and is rich in iron, calcium, and phosphorous. 

Compared to that found in other forms of red meat, the mineral content in both donkey and horse meat has remarkable nutritional value. Being a dietary meat characterized by low fat and cholesterol content, donkey meat can be considered an excellent alternative to red meat options, which often have a high fatty acid profile. Donkey meat provides the health-conscious consumers of the modern day with a leaner meat containing less fat while also maintaining the same delectable taste profile, juiciness, and consistent quality. 

Food demands around the world continue to evolve as countries continue to grow economically and socially. Donkey meat has proven leaner and more tender than other conventional meat products. It also has a lower saturated fatty acid composition and higher polyunsaturated fatty acid content. The nutritional characteristics of donkey meat make it a great option for health-conscious meat-lovers. Finding a supermarket or restaurant that sells donkey meat if you live in the U.S may be a difficult task, and you may be wondering where donkey meat is most often eaten. 

Dating back to the Ming Dynasty in the early 15th century, donkey meat has been a popular option in China and seen as a cheaper, leaner alternative to horse meat. In the south of France, donkey meat is also regularly consumed. Donkey and pork sausage was a popular option amongst locals until the practice of donkey slaughtering became restricted. Meanwhile, certain osterias offer donkey meat in Italy and source their products from local farms and butcher shops. 

If you’re having trouble finding donkey meat in your area but still hope to try it, consider ordering directly from a supplier, and be sure also to consider international suppliers. Because donkey meat is low in fat, its average shelf life is around 12 months.

Consider these options for creating delicious dishes with donkey meat:

Donkey Salami 

Donkey meat, when compared to pork or beef, salami contains a higher content of protein and lower content of fat. Donkey salami is cured, dried, fermented, and sold with traditional beef and pork products. Next time you visit an Italian or Sicilian-style deli, consider ordering donkey meat salami and enjoy your delectable snack.

Donkey Burger or Sandwich 

Popular amongst locals in northern China, donkey sandwiches or burgers can be served warm or cold. This dish is a common street food that can be chopped, shredded, and seasoned with spices like bell peppers or cilantro. 

Donkey Soup or Stew 

Best known as an Italian donkey dish, donkey stew or soup is a great option when the weather is gloomy or snowy. You can choose to make this dish with chunks or donkey meat and pair it with steamed white rice. Braising the meat on low heat and adding a mixture of onions, red wine, bay leaves, salt, and pepper will make this donkey-based dish absolutely irresistible.