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Crocodile patties, croquettes add bite to Osaka school lunches

A student shows crocodile meat patties at Kokumei Elementary School in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, on Jan. 26, 2021. (Mainichi/Mari Misumi)

TOYONAKA, Osaka -- Schoolchildren in this western Japan city recently snapped up the chance to feast on a rare lunch treat -- crocodile meat.

    Crocodile patties and croquettes were served for lunch at 41 municipal elementary schools in this western Japan city on Jan. 26 as part of a promotion.

    The municipal education board was inspired for the idea by the city's mascot character Machikane-kun -- named after the extinct crocodile Toyotamaphimeia machikanensis -- so that children would take more of an interest in school lunches. Students were very pleased with the packed flavor, saying, "They taste good!" and "They've become my favorite food!"

    The special menu was created for national school lunch week (Jan. 24 to 30). Nutrition educators and others raised the idea of using crocodile meat, and a contractor developed the patties and croquettes. Loin meat from Siamese crocodiles farmed in Thailand make up some 10% of both dishes. Crocodile meat is priced in between pork and beef, and 40 grams of the meat was used for each patty in consideration of budgetary restraints and other reasons.

    In a sixth-grade classroom at Municipal Kokumei Elementary School, as the lunch break began students shouted, "Today's lunch is crocodile!" and "It's a first for me!" When students in charge of serving introduced the menu, all the students smiled. Although the students had to face the front and were not allowed to speak while eating as a measure to prevent coronavirus infections, they appeared to enjoy the food.

    One student said with a big smile after eating their lunch, "I was really looking forward to this. After one bite, it became my favorite food." Another student said, "It tasted like chicken meatball."

    Meanwhile, Yoko Fujihara, a nutrition educator at the school, said. "I think that students usually leave food because they are not interested in school lunches. I want them to become more interested in ingredients and eat everything."

    (Japanese original by Mari Misumi, Osaka Bureau)

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