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Reduced to Ratburgers

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Do NOT ask for the sausage inna bun.

Lenina Huxley: Just don't ask them where the meat comes from.
John Spartan: Huxley, what's that supposed to mean?
Lenina Huxley: Do you see any cows around here, detective?

There are few better ways (short of No Party Like a Donner Party) to demonstrate that a human character is desperate for food than to reduce him to eating rats. Although such animals are technically edible, their association with disease, garbage, and urban decay places them firmly on the "Unclean/Do Not Eat" list in most viewers' minds. This also applies to mice, cockroaches, dump-foraging seagulls, urban feral pigeons, mangy strays and other scrounging pests, although their small size makes some of these creatures unlikely candidates for Meal of Last Resort — although, again, the fact that people are going after such tiny morsels for food can also serve to highlight how desperate they've become.

Commonly seen in After the End scenarios, in Failed States or during prolonged military sieges. Also Played for Laughs in cases where characters are simply too poor to afford even dog food.

Eat That applies if the eating is done to win a bet or game show rather than survive. May be inverted when a Squeaking Carpet or Rodents of Unusual Size are involved. Usually an alternative to Eat the Dog, another way to showcase characters' famished need to eat whatever they can get... although if it's a pet rat that gets eaten, the two can overlap.

It should be noted that rat is a delicacy in some countries (see Real Life, below), which is potentially a different trope altogether.

Sister trope to I Ate WHAT?!, in which disgusting things that aren't even nominally food are eaten. Subtrope to both Poverty Food and Too Desperate to Be Picky.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In episode 329 of Berserk, Guts was left starving in a prison cell. He survived by eating a rat raw.
  • The Cowboy Bebop episode "Gateway Shuffle" revolves around eco-terrorists trying to stop the harvest of Sea Rats. Once something only eaten by desperate Ganymede colonists, it became a gourmet food when interplanetary shipping became more reliable. One is left to draw one's own parallels to Japan's steadily decreasing consumption of whale meat, which was a staple in the postwar Japanese diet until agriculture and meat imports became more reliable. It also works as a reference to lobster, which was considered a desperation food for slaves and the poor as late as the nineteenth century (much like salmon). Amusingly enough, Spike actually orders lobster after finding out the Sea Rat tastes awful.
    Spike: And is it tasty?
    Jet: It's totally disgusting. People eat it anyway for status, it's "in" now.
  • Kill la Kill implies this with the Mankanshokus being poor and their dinner being "mystery meat croquettes". When they become temporarily wealthy in Ep. 7, Sukuyo says how happy she is that they get to use meat from real cows and pigs.
  • One of the latter episodes of Simoun has the sibyllae deal with food shortage aboard the ship while also putting up with a mouse running around. It mysteriously disappears though when Mamiina cooks a stew which the other girls find rather delicious. Right after that Mamiina informs them what was the stew actually made of.

    Comic Books 
  • In Judge Dredd, rats, along with certain grubs and insects, have become the primary source of protein for humans in Mega-City One. During The Day The Law Died, Dredd's resistance take refuge in the Undercity and eat a meal Fergie cooks for them. They debate which animal it is, guessing squirrel. Fergie laughs, noting that rats are the only animals in the Undercity.
  • The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers: Franklin and Phineas are appalled when Fat Freddy takes their food money and buys a shotgun to hunt with. Freddy, who's never used a gun in his life, insists he'll eat everything he kills. While playing with the gun in the apartment he drops it, and it goes off, killing a rat in the ceiling. The other two hold him to his promise (at gunpoint!)
  • Actually an important plot point in the last arc of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage) comics. Splinter has fallen down a hole and can't move anywhere due to breaking his ankle. He's watched over by the mysterious Rat King, who refuses to directly help him. Eventually, Splinter snaps and takes a bite out of a rat near him. This is portrayed as a moment of enlightenment, and the Rat King helps him afterwards.
  • Averted in All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder. Batman wants Dick Grayson (age 12) to do this, presumably to toughen him up, but once Batman leaves, Alfred brings him McDonald's to eat instead. Alfred's dialogue to Batman following this implies that Batman reduced himself to rats willingly as part of his training.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): After being enslaved by the Santee Empire Wonder Woman and Natasha Teranova start hunting and eating the blue fleshed tiny lizard things on the planet to supplement the slop they're fed. Natasha notes that the lizards are unappetizing but a source of protein they can't turn from in their situation.

    Comic Strips 
  • A The New Yorker cartoon once depicted an author writing about "blockade mutton". If a city has been blockaded long enough, the locals will be reduced to eating dog. At one point, his research fails him, but after a trip to a pet store and a (flexible) restaurant, he returns to his desk and types, "It is tough, gamey, and strong-flavored".
  • One The Far Side cartoon depicted a couple cowboys eating stew. One of them pulls a live lizard out of his bowl while his friend (who has a mouthful of stew) looks on in horror. Their cook is surprised, saying that the egg-beater must have missed that one.
  • In one early Dilbert storyline, Dilbert runs afoul of his company's Accounting department which is run by literal trolls. While Dilbert is suspended upside-down over a boiling pot, one troll berates him for spending nearly ten dollars a day on meals during a business trip. The troll claims that, according to company policy, Dilbert should have stunned pigeons with his briefcase and fried them up with his travel iron. Dilbert claims that he tried, but it was taking so long. The troll suggests that he use the "Wool" setting on his iron next time.

    Fan Works 
  • Gensokyo 20XX: This occurs starting with 20XXI, where Chen proposes they eat rats, mice, and little birds to conserve any brought food (they're trying to evade capture) and said chapter is even titled "Ratburgers". This also occurs post-20XXIII, taking place in the aftermath of a nuclear war, in which case, they'd have to eat on what they can scavenge, chapter 27 of 20XXIV having Miko bringing up the fact that they were eating roasted rats (said chapter also has "Ratburgers" in the title). One of the first chapters of 20XXV has Sakuya (wanting to be a "normal kid") complaining about eating rat meat, to which Ran reminds her that food is scarce, so they have to make do, and a later chapter has Cirno making soup with frogs as an ingredient.
  • In Hunters of Justice, after the major cities of Remnant are stolen and bottled by Brainiac, Vale's food shortages get so bad, many people are reduced to eating rats. As far as alcohol goes, they're settling with moonshine, some of which has been brewed in toilets.
  • I Woke Up As a Dungeon, Now What?: Until the first crops come in, the primary food source for Fort Aresya's inhabitants is the endless supply of bugs that Taylor's first floor effect causes to spawn on the surface. The fort's inhabitants are grateful not to be starving, but they are also very happy anytime they get something to eat that isn't bug-based.
  • The King Nobody Wanted: During their imprisonment in Harrenhal, Alliser Thorne's fellow prisoners Curgen and Luthor Crabbe discuss the possible necessity of eating rats to survive, with some degree of familiarity, to the annoyance of Alliser and the disgust of Jarman Buckwell.
  • RWBY: Dark: On top of mutilating and torturing her half-sister Yang Xiao Long, Ruby Rose also denies her sufficient food, leading to her always being hungry and on the brink of starvation. One night Yang hears a rat crawling near her and is forced to kill it with just her mouth, then eat it raw in order to survive.
  • The Weaving Force: Downplayed. When Glory Girl and Skitter are stranded in a strange forest far from civilisation, and there are no supermarkets available, they have to eat something to survive. Taylor opts to have her bugs hunt and kill a Minstyngar, which leaves Vicky more than a little disturbed.
    Her question, or at least one of the many many many questions she had was answered before she could finish voicing the thought as the giant death beetles began to literally carve up the very dead… thing. Vicky wasn't sure what would make her sicker. The sounds, the sight, the smell or the fact that she was, in fact still hungry despite all of that.
  • Welcome Back: Richie was captured, replaced with an imposter, and ultimately abandoned in his prison. Along with repeatedly starving to death by the time he escapes, he mentions eating the rats at times.

    Films — Animation 
  • In South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Ike gets locked in an attic for many days and eats the first mouse he sees.
  • In The Last Unicorn, the bandits complain that Molly keeps serving them rat soup.
    "At least she could use a different rat!"
  • In the 2010 film based on Yogi Bear, Yogi, accustomed to eating only "pic-a-nic" lunches, is forced to "rough it" and tries eating worms instead. It goes about as well as you'd expect.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Towards the end of Grave Encounters, Lance (graphically) kills and eats a rat, having been in the endless subterranean tunnels for who knows how long.
  • In Never Cry Wolf, the naturalist tests whether a wolf-sized animal can really survive eating only rodent-sized prey by catching and eating the arctic mice and voles that keep infesting his campsite.
  • Used in at least one movie version of Cyrano de Bergerac to illustrate that the defenders of a besieged fortress are completely out of food.
  • In Time Bandits, Vermin catches and eats a live rat when the characters are imprisoned. Of course, he eats anything.
  • The subterranean "scraps" who live in the tunnels under San Angeles in Demolition Man eat rat meat. When John Spartan, the hero, finds out what the burger he just bought is, he briefly pauses; but realizing the hardship and poverty that the poor cook and her fellow scraps have to endure, warmly tells her "It's the best burger I had in years" (having spent decades in cryo-sleep), which she happily appreciates. Spartan's enjoyment and appreciation of her cooking is genuine, as he can be seen finishing it in the next scene. It is also the ONLY meat available to him, as the society above ground has long gone vegetarian.
  • In a desperate attempt to keep costs down, the main characters in the Death Nurse duology start secretly feeding the patients staying at their clinic rats from the basement.
  • In Threads, Ruth Beckett barters for dead rats in the months after nuclear war. All the while, there's a Standard Life insurance company's advertisement behind them.
  • In Heavyweights, the protagonists put together a video showing the kids' parents just how horrifying Tony's weight loss regimen really is, including a scene of one kid pretending to devour a (fake) rat. One character worries if they went too far, with another commenting that he thought it was a nice touch.
  • In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Sim serves Watson and Holmes, in Holmes' own words, "the best hedgehog goulash I have ever tasted" during their stay at the Gypsy camp. Watson quickly loses his appetite after hearing that, causing Holmes to scold him for being such a poor dinner guest, especially since hedgehog is actually regularly served in Roma cuisine.
  • While Major Payne was wasting away in a hotel room as part of a scene spoofing Apocalypse Now, his voiceover laments of how hungry he was for violence and excitement. Then he catches sight of a rat skittering across the floor and his VO adds "Hell, I was just plain hungry!". Cue the grilled rat-on-a-stick.
  • In the opening of The Mummy Returns, the Scorpion King catches and eats a live scorpion when he's starving in the desert. At least raw scorpions taste almost exactly like raw, unshelled shrimp once you get over the Squick factor, and they are safe as long as you don't eat the tail. Although it's implied to be less starvation than a test from Anubis.
  • Terminator
  • In Battlefield Earth, Terl allows some of the human slaves (including the hero) out in the wild to see what they will consume as food, as he doesn't know what humans like to eat. The only edible animals they find are rats, so that's what they eat, but Terl believes it is their preferred meal.
  • Played with in Jungle 2 Jungle, Mimi, being raised by an amazonian tribe, gives a beggar who is asking for food since he hasn't eaten anything a dead pigeon, telling him "Eat".
  • In O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Pete and Delmar find a "whole gopher village" and proceed to cook some up. Everett doesn't seem very enticed by the notion of eating rodent (though he seems more bothered by the meat being stringy, full of bones, and not very big than by the meat being a gopher).
  • In the 2008 Zombie Apocalypse film Descendents 2008, young Camille has been wandering for days with little food, so collects some worms and pillbugs from under a rock and eats them.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road:
    • In the intro, Max crushes a two-headed lizard with his boot and immediately eats it.note 
    • Later on, when Nux sees a large beetle crawling on him, he grabs it and eats it.
  • In Snowpiercer, the protein bars that the Tail-enders have been subsisting on for 17 years turn out to be made from ground-up cockroaches.
  • In History of the World Part I, one of the street vendors from the "French Revolution" segment sells dead rats for the pot.
  • In The Book of Eli, the title character kills a cat with his crossbow to roast it. As he's eating it a rat scurries by, and he offers the rat a piece of the cat.
  • Shoot to Kill (a.k.a. Deadly Pursuit)
    • FBI Agent Stantin assumes this trope when his guide cooks a marmot for them. The guide enjoys trolling him about it.
      Stantin: A rodent... you mean a rat?
      Knox: Yeah... it is a kind of giant rat, I guess.
    • Meanwhile Susan, who's being forced to guide the killer they're chasing across the border, tries to cook up some fish, but the killer puts out the fire as the smoke will give away their position. Susan calmly replies that they'll have sushi instead and eats her fish raw, to his disgust.
  • Battle Beyond the Stars. Professional Killer Gelt eats serpents three times a day on a Ghost Planet, surrounded by wealth that he can't spend as he can't risk leaving his lair for any civilized planet. He agrees to help defend the planet Akir just so he can have a square meal and a place to hide. After Gelt gets killed in battle, the Akirans bury him with a full-course meal to keep their side of the agreement.
  • Anchorman 2 has Champ telling Ron that chicken is actually too expensive for a fried chicken joint to be profitable, so he has instead been selling his customers fried bats.
  • In Freejack, the homeless "Eagle Man" offers Furlong some of his fried river rat after Alex crawls out of the river. When Alex asks the Eagle Man how he could eat that, the man tells him "First you got to cut off the head and tail, and then gut it. Then it's all a matter of the sauce."
  • Likewise in Screamers. One of the characters starts describing the correct way to cook them before being told to shut up. Ironically the eponymous Killer Robots also salvage rats as well as human bodies for their resources.
  • The 1989 sci-fi movie Slipstream takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. A man at the diner rejects his meal and the waitress carries it back to the kitchen.
    Waitress: This isn't rabbit; this is squirrel!
    Chef: (chops off squirrel's head) Now, it's rabbit.
  • The last survivor of the underground Cannibal Clan in Death Line attempts to feed fresh-killed rats to the young woman he kidnapped. Rat skins hung out to cure on the walls of his tunnels suggest he's been living off them himself when he doesn't have human victims on hand.
  • Deadtime Stories: Volume 2: In "The Gorge", the spelunkers have been trapped in the cave for weeks and have exhausted their food supply. They are reduced to eating raw bats to survive.
  • In Pandorum, food is in short supply on the colony ship. At one point Nadia offers Bower an insect when he says he's hungry, remarking that they have a lot of protein. She even eats one herself. Bower hesitates for a moment before popping the still squirming insect into his mouth.
  • The Cloverfield Paradox. Due to the logistical expense of feeding the astronauts on the space station, they eat worm protein that's 3D printed into something vaguely resembling food. Someone has taped a "Worst Bagle Machine Ever" sticker on the printer, implying the stuff tastes about as great as it looks.

  • In the epilogue of Almost Night, the hobo Lekoogex compliments Jim on sleeping behind The Silver Club, commenting that bar fed rats are the best.
  • Discworld:
    • Vetinari is briefly suspected of eating rats in Feet of Clay, when he's being poisoned by unknown means and the Watch learns that rats have been dying from the same poison.
    • In Guards! Guards!, he's stuck in the dungeon, but he doesn't have to eat the rats. He sends the rats out to find food for him, having earned their allegiance by giving them advice in their war with the snakes and scorpions.
    • The same book also Inverts this as the Dwarf restaurant owner, Gimlet, apparently was unable to afford real rat a couple of times, and was caught substituting chicken or even beef. (The gnome rat-catcher charges too much for real, trap-fresh rat.) Of course, for Discworld dwarfs, rat meat is the preferred type of meat, especially with ketchup. Occasional human characters have been seen dining on rat-based dwarf cuisine.
    • Also, in Maskerade there's a reference to how, if people were reduced to eating cockroaches by a catastrophe, the snooty proprietor of a dress shop would still use a napkin to do so.
    • In The Fifth Elephant, Vimes (wrongly) assumes that the Diet of Bugs is an example of this trope. (It's a reference to the historical Diet of Worms, also not an example: a diet was an imperial assembly in the Holy Roman Empire, this one held in the German city of Worms.)
    • Scallot, the multiple-amputee quartermaster from Monstrous Regiment, has played this trope straight so often that he now prefers rat meat over other kinds. From the same book, Sergeant Jackrum buys a bottle of moonshine which he identifies by smell as being made from fermented rat.
    • One band-member in Soul Music mentions he would use that flute that attracts rats to anybody playing on it since he is getting hungry.
    • In I Shall Wear Midnight, a death-row convict is possessed by the Cunning Man, who pilots the murderer's body in search of Tiffany. Though indifferent to his stolen body's pain, the evil witch-burner recognizes that it needs water and food, so steers it to a convenient pond to drink murky water and eat frogs.
    • Nanny Ogg's Cookbook contains an actual recipe for rat pizza. Subverted in that the Quarti Rodenti is a big seller to Ankh-Morpork's dwarf diners, but the "human version" in the book is topped with sliced vegetables arranged to form "rats".
    • The same book also claims that the Quirmian delicacies of frogs' legs and snails developed during a decades-long siege, after they'd already eaten everything in the city zoo. (See also the Siege of Paris under Real Life.)
  • In Terry Pratchett's early story "And Mind The Monoliths", a cast member on a Neolithic-village-recreation documentary program is interviewed about their pseudo-ancient lifestyle. Rat soup is mentioned in a concluding series of cast quotations.
  • World War Z:
    • The small dog rescued by one of the interviewees is adopted by a family and keeps them fed through the winter by killing rats for the stewpot.
    • The astronauts on the ISS eked out their food supply by killing and eating the lab rats.
  • In Fly Trap (sequel to Fly By Night), the city of Toll is divided into two parts, lucky Toll by Day and impoverished Toll by Night. When one wealthy character in the day city complains about a blockade keeping her from having chocolate, the Mosca tries to wake her up by saying that she may be running low on chocolate, but in the night city they've even run out of rats, and have started cooking owls and sparrows (and paying a high cost for them!)
  • In The Stand, Lloyd Henreid, a plague-survivor trapped in his cell at a prison where everyone else has died or fled hoards a dead rat, which he plans to eat if no one comes to let him out. He eventually resorts to eating it.
  • In the Aubrey-Maturin series, sailors are known to eat rats when food is scarce at sea. "Only we call 'em millers to make 'em eat better."
  • In two of the Bloody Jack books, due to kidnapping-related circumstances, the main character and her fellow captives capture rats to supplement their pitiful rations. In both books, they're called "millers" for the same reason as above.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Stannis Baratheon and his troops were reduced to eating rats during a long-term siege. They were in serious danger of starving to death until smuggler Davos Seaworth secretly managed to bring in supplies, mostly onions, earning himself a knighthood. This also gave him his nickname "The Onion Knight." Stannis has the bad fortune to wind up in this situation again in A Dance with Dragons, when his army, which is in the middle of marching to battle, gets hit by a blizzard that goes on for weeks.
    • And in A Dance with Dragons, Theon is reduced to eating rats in Ramsay Bolton's dungeon.
    • The slums in King's Landing had some of this, with explicit examples of people eating pigeons, and implicit examples of people eating worse. In the notorious neighborhood called Flea Bottom, there's a cheap stew known as "a bowl of brown" that is infamous for containing a... Mystery Meat. Even in the best of times, it's hinted that the stew contains rats, or worse. In bad times, it's openly surmised to be people, either victims of the area's high crime rate or beggars who died in the street. The snarky mercenary Bronn claims that a good way to Dispose of a Body is to turn it over to the right butchers and let them turn the victim into a bowl of brown.
  • A profitable side business for allied prisoners of war in James Clavell's Asian Saga, as noted in the title of King Rat about the prisoner who has cornered the supply - selling it as supposedly kanchilsnote  poached right outside the POW camp, rather than rat meat. Notably, the soldiers behind the rat farm deliberately only sell the meat to the high-ranking officers, who everyone in the camp hates for various reasons, rather than providing it to the rank and file. The prohibitively high price tag not only lines their pockets, but assures their marks are the only people able to afford such "lavish meal".
  • Averted by the Rat-Speakers in Neverwhere, who revere such rodents far too much to even contemplate eating them, so they dine on stray cats instead. Later in the book, Richard orders curry for the gang from a stall. There are two options — meat curry and vegetable curry. Richard asks what the meat is — cue him quickly deciding upon the vegetable. What type of meat it was is never revealed.
  • Before the beginning of The Curse of Chalion, Cazaril is in a siege where, when he's telling the story, he claims that not a rat was left unroasted within the besieged castle. Later in the book, he needs a rat for an illegal spell he wants to perform, so he exploits the fact that this is common knowledge and sends a page to catch one for him, claiming that he developed a taste for them during the siege and he's going to eat it.
  • In Lucifer's Hammer, the survivors of the cometary strike supplement their limited diet through a harsh winter by raising and eating rats as food animals.
  • In a Captain Underpants comic from Book 2, students had to eat ratburgers for lunch at the cafeteria, and the staff didn't even bother cutting off the tails.
  • In Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, newly turned Louis couldn't stomach the idea of feeding upon humans, so he feeds upon rats instead. This was mocked by his sire Lestat, who considered him a coward and a weakling because of it.
    Lestat: All I need to find you, Louis, is follow the corpses of rats!
  • One of the early Shadowrun novels is told from a city ork's point of view and mentions his distaste for cat meat, which local ork kids hunt down in the alleys of the Barrens.
  • In Harry Potter, Sirius mentions having to eat rats and other stuff while on the run from the ministry. At least it could be said that being in dog form while doing so would make it more bearable, but he still chomps on the food the kids bring him when they meet.
  • In Harry Turtledove's Homeward Bound (the last novel in the Worldwar series), astronaut Glen Johnson notices that his shredded meat sandwich tastes funny and, after thinking about the fact that the ship hasn't received supplies in several decades, decides he doesn't want to know what kind of meat it is. He suspects it's probably guinea pig, though.
  • In Jeff Long's Year Zero, Nathan Lee must trudge down a mountain in Nepal after being pushed off a ledge and abandoned without supplies. Passing through an area infested with leeches, he pulls them off his ankles and eats them to keep his strength up.
  • Referenced frequently in The Hunger Games, where the starving people of District 12 are willing to eat most kinds of animals, including mice, rats, squirrels, and dogs (says one shopkeeper: "Once it's in the soup, I'll call it beef").
  • Most of the world is said to have resorted to this trope during the Collapse that pre-dated Simon Hawke's Wizard of novels.
  • In Iron Council, the Pretty Brigade is said to have had nothing to eat but stale bread and rat meat in the days leading up to their last stand in Howl Barrow.
  • In the Stephen King short story "Survivor Type", the protagonist is stranded on a deserted island with water, a sewing kit, a first aid kit, a few kilos of heroin...and no food. He is reduced to eating raw gulls, crabs, a spider, and eventually himself.
  • In Animorphs, Tobias is a nothlit, stuck in the form of a red-tailed hawk. Naturally he hunts and eats rodents, the natural prey of his new body. He's okay with that. But at one point he finds himself reduced to eating roadkill, and finds it disgusting and humiliating (especially since Rachel catches him doing it). Initially he was opposed to eating rodents at all, wanting to still eat human food to stay sane. Eventually, however, he comes to accept that he is a hawk now and has to eat as such.
  • In Reliquary, Mephisto, the leader of the homeless, feeds the disguised Agent Pendergast roasted rat (referred to as "track rabbit") as a sign of hospitality, and as a test to see if he was who he claimed to be.
  • After their crash in The Silver Gryphon, Blade and Tad put their survival training to use, dining on everything from rodents to insects.
  • Referenced in the first Horatio Hornblower novel written, when one Plucky Middie at Captain Hornblower's table accidentally says the dinner will save them some money on rats. Hornblower feigns surprise at the high price rats are going for compared to when he was a midshipman, a ploy to appear more human in their eyes—even though his weak stomach prevented him from actually doing such a thing, he knew enough about the phenomenon to invoke the trope.
  • In Half Past Human by T.J.Bass, Earth has a three trillion population living in underground cities. In order to feed them, all the surface is devoted to automatic farming, animals have been exterminated as much as possible, so the only meat available is either this trope... or somewhat processed human protein.
  • In In Search of the Castaways there are a couple of times when the team gets so low on supplies that they happily eat rats as the only available game around.
  • In Stephen Hunt's The Court Of The Air, the Whisperer catches and eats rats in his cell at Hawklam Asylum. In a variant, he doesn't do this because he's starving, but to avoid having to eat the Asylum's gruel instead, which is drugged to suppress his mental powers.
  • In Garrett, P.I., this trope is likely to be mentioned when Garrett talks about the miserable time his Marine unit spent in a tropical swamp, eating anything that didn't eat them first while they harassed their Venageti enemies.
  • In Lies Sleeping, Foxglove recounts via pantomime how she and her three friends were abandoned in a concealed holding cell with plumbing but no food. They survived by luring rats and insects to their prison for years.
  • Domina: Rat and dog meat are both common sources for restaurants, and inexperienced monster slayers can usually get a job hunting them. Of course, in this city, the rats are the size of dogs, and the dogs are technically vampires.
  • In the period mystery Drinker of Blood, Nefertiti witnesses the suffering of the people of Memphis after her fanatical husband Akhenaten abandons the city. The sight of a starving little girl catching flies with skeletal-thin hands and eating them haunts her for weeks.
  • In Metaltown, one of the first things the reader learns about the world is that rats and roasted pigeons are treated like gourmet food.
  • The survivors of Small Game are unable to catch anything in their snares. This forces them to subsist on barely-edible greens and earthworms.
  • A Study in Murder by Robert Ryan. While in a POW camp in WW1 Germany, Dr. Watson has to find out if some moonshine was poisoned, so tells his orderly to catch a couple of rats. When the orderly returns with the rats in a sack, he explains that he got them from the kitchen and suggests Watson not ponder where the Mystery Meat that occasionally appears in the soup comes from. It should be noted that Germany is under Allied blockade, so the prisoners are actually eating better than the general population thanks to food parcels from home. The camp commandant mentions that he has to have the stables guarded 24/7 to prevent people from eating the few horses they have left.
  • Morreion, an ageless wizard from the Dying Earth tales, was left marooned on a nearly-lifeless planet for untold millennia. During his long exile, he developed an elaborate personal cuisine built around lichen and worms.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Merlin (2008) has "It's rat...", starting with an episode where Camelot is experiencing famine and Merlin makes a rat that was chewing up Arthur's clothes into a stew that he serves to the prince. And when Arthur realizes where the meat came from, he makes Merlin eat it instead.
  • Sometimes contemplated, or even done for real, by participants in reality game shows such as Survivor or The Colony. In the latter example, the colonists actually made a rat farm at one point. Serious wilderness survival shows often recommend use of this trope under dire circumstances.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In his lowest moments after having his soul returned, Angel subsisted on rat blood. Part of his Vegetarian Vampire-ness. Spike also has his turn at it after regaining his own soul.
  • The Young Ones:
    • Vyvyan once found a dead rat in the stewpot, and (being Vyvyan) promptly ate it.
    • Moving house, Mike once discovered Buddy Holly hanging from a parachute in his new bedroom. Holly claimed to have been stuck there for over two decades, eating any bugs that came within reach.
  • Blackadder:
    • In Blackadder Goes Forth, Baldrick has cooked "rat au vin", which turns out to be a rat that's been run over by a van.
    • Baldrick from Blackadder II finds his boss eating leeches on his doctor's orders, and offers him a fat spider he'd been saving for his own meal. Another episode saw him hanging cheese from his face in order to lure mice into his mouth.
  • On Highlander: The Series, an immortal who was marooned on a deserted island with no food was reduced to catching and eating flies in his desperation. Unlike most examples, he couldn't actually starve to death due to his powers, but his body still felt the agony of starvation. He eventually ran out of food completely.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus' "Church Police" sketch has the family's choice of desserts — rat cake, rat sorbet, rat pudding, or strawberry tart. Which has some rat in it. Three. Rather a lot, really.
  • On CSI: NY, the Rat Fisherman claimed he might eat his catch if he were hungry enough, although he may have been yanking the investigators' chain.
  • On Boardwalk Empire, Nucky once got some Moral Guardians to sympathize with him by claiming he'd grown up so poor, he'd had to resort to this trope. This may or may not be true.
  • In Forever Knight, vampires live off the blood of whatever kind of creature they first tasted after being vamped. Usually that's humans, but there are occasional animal-drinkers, known as carouches; the recurring character Screed had the bad luck to get stuck with rats.
  • Non-starvation literal example: A bitter man on Bones tricked his divorce lawyer into eating ratburgers once a week in a private act of revenge.
  • At the start of Series VI of Red Dwarf, Starbug is so short on supplies that Kryten cooks one of the space weevils that got into their remaining food.
    Rimmer: Not even Lister with his single remaining tastebud will knowingly eat insectoid vermin. I mean, let's face it; with him it's practically cannibalism.
  • The little bald boy who's really a child Observer from Fringe is implied to have lived off rats, bugs, and moss scrounged in the tunnel where he was found.
  • Future Man: Tiger and Wolf come from a post-apocalyptic Bad Future, so anything better than cat is incomprehensibly delicious. For Wolf at least; Tiger will still go for cat even when better food is available.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Stannis Baratheon remembers this happening during The Siege that made him a notable general.
      Stannis: First we ate the horses. We weren't riding anywhere, not with the castle surrounded, and we couldn't feed them, so fine, the horses. Then we ate the cats. Never liked cats, so fine. I do like dogs. Good, loyal animals. We ate them too. Then the rats... the night before you slipped through [smuggling food] I thought my wife was going to die. She wouldn't speak anymore, she had gotten so frail...
    • While in the slums of King's Landing, Arya Stark catches and kills a pigeon. However, she changes her mind and unsuccessfully tries to sell it to a cook.
  • The preview to How I Met Your Mother's last season showed Ted's future children who, having been listening to Ted tell his story for the last eight years, survived with the help of a spider farm they cultivated in a "World's Best Dad" mug.
  • In Into the Badlands, rats appear to be an accepted food source in some locations but not in others. Sunny is visibly perturbed by Baji's catching one and cooking it while describing his favorite recipes.
  • The feral girl from the Supernatural episode "Family Remains" breaks a rat's neck and eats it. It's implied that eating rats and stolen pets is how she and her twin brother survived for years.
  • Unsurprisingly Horrible Histories has done several sketches about the various unappetising things people have been reduced to eating over the centuries. For example, one Historical Masterchef had a First World War soldier eating the lice he plucked out of his clothing, which visibly squicked the hosts.
  • Dark Matter (2015) has a scene where the crew have lunch at a space station, and find out the burgers are made from mealworms.
  • Z Nation: In a montage of survivor groups listening to Citizen Z's report on the oncoming hurricane, one survivor is roasting a skinned rat over a barrel of burning refuse.
  • Discussed during a particularly bleak moment in Battlestar Galactica (2003). With the fleet's food supply nearly exhausted, Commander Adama and Colonel Tigh contemplate how unruly the civilian population is getting.
    Adama: I hear they're still eating paper. Is that true?
    Tigh: No. [Beat] Paper shortage.
    [Both of them crack up with helpless laughter]
  • Very likely to happen in The Walking Dead (2010), as it takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting where finding food can be difficult. One episode has some of the protagonists face some threatening dogs, which they kill to defend themselves...and the next scene shows everyone eating meat. No prizes for guessing where it came from. A later episode has one of the characters eating a tortoise.
  • Happens regularly in Survivorman. Les is quick to point out that in an actual survival situation you can't afford to be picky and after three or four days without eating a rat, tarantula, or sea snail is going to look far more appetizing anyway.
    • Shows like Survivorman are also constrained by hunting regulations; for example not being able to get a permit for killing a protected antelope just for the sake of the show. So they are even more constrained than one would be in an actual survival situation.
  • One episode of Married... with Children had Al and Kelly mentioning there was a mouse in their house and they were trying to catch it with a mousetrap so they could eat it but only got some cheese on their trap.
  • On Snowpiercer, the Tailies maintain a rat farm to supplement their meager protein-bar diet. After losing her food supply to an avalanche at the weather station, Melanie discovers a colony of rats that survived the Freeze in a geyser-heated cavern and sustains herself by eating them.
  • Raised by Wolves (2020). During the war that is devastating Earth, a male soldier tells a female one to get them some food while an android surgeon operates on him. She's shown shooting a rat, skinning it, and dropping the meat into boiling water to make a stew.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In "The Siege", Major Kira and Jadzia Dax are in an abandoned Bajoran resistance hideout when Dax is startled by a spider-like creature the size of a small dog. When Dax jokes that La Résistance fighters kept them as pets, Kira says that's ridiculous... because they ate them.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In "Gravity", Tom Paris and Tuvok are stranded on a desert planet for two months, and they also have to eat large alien spiders. When they're finally rescued, Neelix insists on getting the recipe.
  • The Heavy Water War: After the first commando team is killed, the advance reconnaissance team is forced to live off the land in the mountains, despite not having been issued winter rations, while another team is trained and sent in. Unfortunately, there aren't any animals to hunt. One of them finally sees a herd of reindeer but misses his shot, so he digs up the lichen the reindeer were feeding on and serves it up as a stew. It's enough until they're finally able to shoot a reindeer, which they devour raw on the spot.
  • In the Hale and Pace sketch "Moscow Vice", a sleazy character offers to sell the undercover cops some pussy...which turns out to be an actual pussycat—to eat! They then go on to bust a crime boss who's looking to corner the illegal food market in cats, pigeons, and four-year old turnips.

  • "Rats on a Budget" is a novelty song by Heat N Serve, staged as a commercial for an ultra-cheap fast-food chain with an all-rodent menu. The video garnered a lot of (queasy) laughs on MTV's "Basement Tapes" and the Dr. Demento show.
  • The Rasputina song "Rats" is about a community of starving Bolivians who convince the Pope to categorize rats as fish, so that they can justify eating the horse-sized local rodents come Friday.

  • This mock Public Service Announcement (in Spanish) from the now-defunct Mexican radio station, Radioactivo 98.5, which advises to "feed yourself well" during the Easter Vigil when you have to avoid red meat by instead eating rat meat, also listing rat "dishes" and mentioning that rats are "Besides being abundant in proteins, carbohydrates, and poor neighborhoods, they are also economical and easy to acquire: You just need a broom and a dustpan... or simply just a shoe. Look in your closest sewer! Streets are full of rats! And to avoid the disgust, first shave your rat and decorate it with tomato slices, sprinkle it with sesame, and for the elegant touch, put an olive in its snout".

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In B4: The Lost City, a classic adventure, the underground city's meat supplies come from farming giant rats and giant cave crickets.
  • Exalted: As Autochthonia is built within the planet-sized mass of machinery that makes up the world-body of the mechanical Primordial Autochthon, organic goods of any sort are very rare there — their only sources are certain nutrient-filled tubes and the rats and roaches that settled it alongside people. Autochthonians consequently don't have the luxury of being picky about their choices in food, drink, or clothing. Most people live on processed nutrient gruel, luxury goods on the black market include rat-fur gloves and cheese made from human milk, and capybara-sized domesticated rats provide the bulk of the world's meat, milk, and pelts.
  • Mutant Future: Rat-on-a-stick is a quite common wasteland snack in the post-apocalyptic world.
  • Ravenloft: The darklord Monette contracted lycanthropy by catching and eating infected bats after he was shipwrecked on an island with no other food.

  • In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a variant of the trope occurs with the meat shortage driving some pie-shop owners to use their neighbors' cats and other poor animals as pie-filling. When Mrs. Lovett, one pie-shop owner, comes across the title vengeance-driven barber, his first murder and his vow to "practice on less honorable throats" following his failure to kill Judge Turpin spark a ghoulish idea as to how to get her business back on track.
  • In King Lear, when Edgar introduces himself in his "Poor Tom" alternate identity, he rambles on about how he subsists on amphibians, lizards, old rats, and dead dogs.

    Video Games 
  • Meat is basically all the same for gameplay purposes in ARK: Survival Evolved—mainly divided into Meat, Fish Meat, and Spoiled Meat—all of which can be eaten by the player or their tamed dinosaurs, but they're better for the player when cooked. However, this trope is implicitly the case depending on where you got the meat itself. Pterosaurs in the jungle? Perfectly edible. Dodos on the beach? Perfectly edible. That tyrannosaurus that was trying to eat you? Perfectly edible. Leeches that will suck your blood if given the chance? Perfectly edible. Those giant rabies-carrying bats in the caves? Perfectly edible. You'll be eating lots of weird things in this game.
  • BARK (2022): You can find dead animals around the house to eat. They'll make you sick, but you can still eat them.
  • Discussed in Cave Story, which gives us this gem of a line:
    Kazuma: Suuuuue! Answer me! I'm so hungry... There's nothing to eat and I've been reduced to feeding on cockroaches. ...Ha-ha. That was a joke. Ha-ha. ...If I have to, though, I really will...
  • In Dwarf Fortress, your dwarves will hunt vermin for food if they go hungry for too long.
  • One of the tapes left behind by the Jackal in Far Cry 2 is a recording of him recalling the time he spent in the notorious Black Beach prison. One of the inmates in a cell across from his had to catch a live rat and crush it to death with his teeth because the guards had him handcuffed 24/7 and refused to feed him. The inmate died three days later, because of the horror of what he became.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, when imprisoned, stripped, and with no food, you have a Fork (that automatically causes Snake to eat anything edible you stab with it) and a low Stamina gauge (which denotes your level of hunger). There is also a very conspicuous rat running around in your cell. Which respawns every so often when you do the obvious. Which is a good thing, as Snake finds it much tastier (hence, more stamina regained) than anything the guard will bother to feed him (especially considering a live rat is as fresh as can be, while food from the guard is always already rotten).
  • Mortal Shell has Fallgrim as such a Crapsack World that Roasted Rats are one of the best ways to restore health outside of combat outside of parrying attacks in already brutal Souls-like RPG. It's to the point that the flavor text reveals that rats and frogs are the only food source in the world.
    "Common fare in Fallgrim, gnawed at by the unconfirmed and shallow."
    "Rats were not always the meal of choice in Fallgrim. Before the arrival of the revered, the forest brimmed with game of all manner."
  • Within Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, your character can catch and eat rats for blood supply (which is helpful when the humans about the map won't go into a dark corner, or if you're in a combat map with no humans in sight, like the LA Sewers), though some (mainly Ventrue, who are the most elitist of the Camarilla clans) might vomit the blood back up out of disgust. For Nosferatu, who break The Masquerade just by being seen, this may be your only source of blood, and they gain more blood from the act than other vampire types.
  • One of the creepiest locales in Dark Fall: Lost Souls is the abandoned train station's cafe, which the street person Mr. Bones has "redecorated" with mannequins, refuse, and menus re-written to offer various stray pets and vermin as dinner items. Dirty dishes and pans in the cafe's kitchenette strongly imply that he's been cooking rats, pigeons, and other urban wildlife for himself.
  • Planescape: Torment has a street vendor who sells cooked cranium rats (Hive Mind rats that become intelligent, malevolent spellcasters when there are enough of them in one area) - boiled, fried, and roasted. Your Player Character can try these and finds the fried one quite delicious.
  • In Minecraft, you may find yourself reduced to poisonous zombie flesh if you don't have access to a source of fresh food. This is a pretty desperate situation in the Overworld, though, since you can easily find food by killing animals, fishing, looting chests, or foraging from the environment. In the Nether, there are far fewer food sources and you may have to resort to rotten meat dropped by zombified piglins if you've exhausted the food you brought with you. Though of course, attack a zombified piglin and hunger will be the least of your problems.
  • Fallout
    • Fallout 2 has rats as a perfectly natural source of meat. The PC can even barter recipes at one point.
    • Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and Fallout 4 also feature giant, mutated versions of mole rats, cockroaches, mosquitoes and ants, among other critters. All can be harvested for meat (though such meats tend to be high in radiation and carry a Strength penalty in hardcore mode in New Vegas), and in New Vegas and Fallout 4, can be cooked into what are evidently satisfying meals. Bloatfly sliders, anyone?
  • Otis, the prisoner in The Secret of Monkey Island, complains constantly about how there's usually nothing for him to eat but rats. Played for laughs, since he does have a piece of carrot cake his Aunt Tillie made, but he can't stand carrot cake.
  • With its wide variety of food, RuneScape has a few examples of traditional vermin used for food.
    • The giant rats are so big you can carve steaks off of them, which function similarly to beef or bear steaks in recipes.
    • In Karamja, you can spit-roast jungle spiders, which the locals consider a delicacy due to the difficulty of killing them. There's an achievement for cooking and eating one.
    • Dorgesh-Kaan is deep underground, so cave goblin cuisine tends to revolve around cave fauna. Street food vendors can be seen shilling bat shishkabob, slime soup, frog burgers, cave eel sushi, fried wall-beast fingers, etc.
    • Gnomes are also not averse to cooking with swamp frogs or earthworms. However, their cuisine is highly prized by humans and elves.
  • In Blood, Caleb comes across a fryer in an early level with a sign advertising "Rat Dogs". Pressing the "use" button causes him to quip "Mmmmm! Ratburgers!" In another level, however, he can find a grilled rat on a stove, where attempting to use it will cause him to claim he's not that hungry.
  • Fallen London, in a vast cavern deep underground, has rats on strings as resources. They're seen as much more appetizing than the horse tripe sold similarly. And of course, some of these rats are sapient.
    • You can use rat meat for "The Sausages No One Complains About". Worse still, you can then sell it for a hefty profit at your restaurant.
  • Kai in Heavenly Sword sadly says that she was alone once, "I ate cockroaches, yuck". Yet at the start of the previous chapter, she quite happily ate a worm after describing them as tasty (not even a supposedly nutritious grub but a big ol' common earthworm).
  • In the After the End setting of Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, rats have become a staple food for the surviving humans living in the Moscow Metro. Venice Station in Last Light even has a shooting gallery where live rats are used as targets, and then promptly served at the local barbecue. Denizens of the same station also eat the huge, bug-like Shrimp mutants that swim in the murky waters surrounding it — Fedor the fisherman remarks that they taste great with beer. However, other food sources exist, such as pigs, chickens, and mushrooms, the latter of which is grown in compost piles and are used to create a wide variety of food, including tea and vodka.
  • In BioShock Infinite, rats can be seen on the dinner plates of Columbia's poor in Shantytown.
  • The people living in Boston in The Last of Us at the start of the game can be seen waiting in line for grilled rats, some of them apparently standing there for hours.
  • In This War of Mine, this trope is taken quite literally. The player can build and set out traps for small animals, usually rats, to be used as food. However, they require bait that could also be used to get food, and they have an unpredictable time to catch anything. Often several traps would be ideal, but that requires ever more resources to build them, turning even this into a difficulty.
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • City elves live in abject poverty, so they sometimes need to get creative with what to put on their plates. The Denerim Alienage's Shianni has her own special "Rabbit Stew," made with rats.
      Shianni: "Rabbits of the city," cousin. If that doesn't sound delicious, you've been away from home too long.
    • This is how nugs became a staple of the dwarven diet. A dwarf named Varen was lost in the Deep Roads and was forced to eat nugs, which were regarded like rats at the time. To his shock, he discovered they were delicious. When he was rescued, Varen was fatter than ever and raving about the delicacies of nug flesh. He was eventually named a Paragon for his contribution to dwarven cuisine.
    • Ruck lived on Darkspawn flesh after he fled into the Deep Roads, and the Darkspawn taint gradually turns him into a ghoul.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Throughout the series, Rodents of Unusual Size are found as low-level enemies. Given the series' propensity for Organ Drops, these giant rats typically drop body parts (including meat) which can then be consumed by the Player Character or used as an alchemical ingredient in potion-making.
    • Goblins are known to farm Tamriel's giant rats as a food source. One tribe in High Rock even had the name "Ratfarmer Tribe." Oblivion even has a special class of Goblins specifically called "rat farmers."
  • One of the edible pickups that restore your health in Dishonored are rat skewers. You usually find these in the slums. That gives you an idea of just how the common citizen is forced to live in this world...
  • A variant in Fate/Grand Order: This is what about a third of the quests in the first Lostbelt of Arc 2 are meant for. A massive ice age killed off all the normal animals, leaving only Demonic Beasts and Yaga (Half-Human Hybrid combinations of Demonic Beasts and people) to populate the world. The Yaga hunt the Demonic Beasts because they have literally no other choice on the matter, and the protagonist and their team are forced to hunt them as well once the major Yaga character informs them of such since the Shadow Border is running out of normal human food by that point.
  • In Don't Starve, monster meat is a food of last resort because of the damage it does to your health and Sanity Meter. Only Webber, who is half-spider, can eat it without penalty, but other characters can cook it into different dishes to mitigate the damage.
  • In Mass Effect 2, on Jacob's loyalty mission you learn that while the officers of a crashed ship Hugo Gernsback (among them Jacob's father) hogged the ship's food for themselves, the rest of the crew was forced to subsist on whatever they found on the planet, which slowly turned them into mindless cavemen which Jacob's father could rule over like a king.
  • Subverted in Borderlands 3. On Promethea, the owner of the Dynasty Diner has you killing ratches (ugly, dog-sized eusocial rat/cockroach things) to make into burgers while Maliwan besieges the planet, but not out of desperation. They've always been his secret ingredient.
  • In We Happy Few, the fact that society has broken down due to excessive drug use becomes a bigger and bigger issue over the course of the game. With no imports and everyone being too drug-addled to farm, the population isn't just reduced to Ratburgers. In the introduction to the final DLC, thugs are beating on a woman's door accusing her of having "salted rat" stowed away. Not only are they reduced to ratburgers, but they've run out of rats.
  • Vampyr: Johnathan Reid can eat rats to restore his health and blood magic if he's too weak to fight and drain enemies and doesn't want to murder civilians for blood, but he'll comment on how disgusted he is. One of the NPCs has been driven insane and is reduced to eating rats because she was told it would lead to immortality.
  • In Surviving the Aftermath, food items that can be scavenged for your settlement include worms and cockroaches. The tech tree also includes the advancement "Alternative Protein", allowing you to farm them.
  • Sylas, the Unshackled from League of Legends, a former Demacian prisoner turned terrorist/revolutionary has a throwaway line mentioning that he was forced to eat rats while in prison when he encounters Twitch, the Plague Rat on the field. In the Lux comic detailing the events of his escape and the uprising he led, Sylas mentioned this to Prince Jarvan IV when throwing Jarvan's life of privilege in his face, and after capturing the prince he taunted him by offering him a "last meal" before his execution- a platter of live rats.
  • In The Outer Worlds, Sprats are disgusting little alien vermin that look like a mix between rats and lizards. This hasn't stopped desperate people from eating them. There's even a processed food called "Spratwurst" that is basically a hot dog made with Sprat meat fried in their own juices. The "Gourmet" canned Saltuna produced by Spacer's Choice is also made mostly with Sprat meat since there aren't any actual Saltuna on Terra-2. This is made even worse since No Biochemical Barriers is not in play, meaning the people eating sprats still suffer malnutrition. Actual ratburgers would be healthier.
  • Stardew Valley version 1.5 introduced "Bug Steak", an edible item crafted at Level 1 Combat with 10 bug meat and described as "the hungry cave diver's last resort".
    • Raw algae and algae soups are probably also desperation food since they're basically pond scum.
    • When learning to craft Wild Bait from Linus, he mentions that it's good enough for himself to eat. In addition to bug meat, Wild Bait uses slime globs and fibrous weeds... yum?
  • In The Sims Medieval if Sims try to use a spit without having any meat ingredients in their inventory, the only thing they can cook is "Roast Rat", which Sims don't like to eat very much; it causes a mild negative "Bland Meal" moodlet. (On the other hand, the spit is actually a specialty item that comes with the Reception Hall being added onto the Throne Room and costs hundreds of simoles to buy for any other building, so by the time they get one your Sims shouldn't be reduced to Roast Rat unless you forgot to send them to the village shop.)
  • Baldur's Gate III: Drinking the blood of rats is a sore spot for vampire spawn Astarion; his master forbade him from drinking the blood of sentient beings, and forced him to subsist upon dead, putrid rats.

  • Freefall
    • Two characters enjoy the delights of entomological cookery (bug-eating): in the case of Sam Starfall, it's not clear how much of it is a result of being a squid in a suit and how much is his natural scavenger instincts. With vet Winston Thurmad it's a conscious dietary choice based on the fact that insects are healthier for you - high protein, low fat, and aside from hæmovorous species, aren't likely to carry pathogens that affect humans.
    • It's also mentioned that terraforming Planet Jean is still a work in progress, making traditional farmed goods prohibitively expensive. So the local fast-food chain is Cricket Burger, and Day of the Dead pastries are made with lichen-based flour instead of grain (it's an acquired taste).
    • When Florence the Bowman's wolf joined the crew, the ship's food supplies consisted solely of ice cream, which she couldn't eat. Shortly after the rat population suddenly diminished.
  • Girl Genius:
  • In Mare Internum, Bex arrives on Mars as a "cricket farmer" to provide food for the Martian colonists.
  • The Order of the Stick: The slaves kept in Tarquin's gladiator arena are normally fed bread and water, but every now and then, a new prisoner might decide to show his dominance by stealing food from the others. Ian and Geoff Starshine have been cultivating edible parasites on their own bodies for just such an occasion.
  • Penny Arcade: In one Con Recap sketch from E3, which revolves around the dubious quality of the food vendors working the convention circuit, Tycho is suspicious about the quality of the meal he just bought.
    Tycho: *looking at what is very clearly just a dead rat on a spit* You... you said this was beef?
    Vendor: Oh yeah!

    Western Animation 
  • Part of the reason Gargamel goes after the Smurfs. And when he can't have Smurfs to eat, he has to eat slime soup.
  • In a Chowder episode, the pig Reuben extorts the main cast with giving him free food and hospitality by threatening to slander their restaurant as unsanitary for a "dead" rat he found in his sandwich (which he put there himself) and he eats up all their food to the point Chowder starts craving Reuben's rat sandwich.
  • In Star Wars: Clone Wars, Anakin had a lunch of a bag full of bugs as a result of dwindling supplies during a prolonged siege. When Obi-Wan questions it he says that he taught him to feed off the living Force, to which Obi-Wan responds that wasn't what he meant.
  • Almost happens in the Les Misérables parody Les Miseranimals in an episode of Animaniacs. Set right before the French Revolution, the Keeper Of the Cats (the man in charge of tending the pound for stray cats) can no longer get meat for his restaurant and plans to resort to using the cats for cooking. The cats are broken out by "Runt Valrunt" before he has a chance to, though.
  • When Homer from The Simpsons gets Springfield split into two different cities due to a feud over a changed area code, he becomes mayor over New Springfield, which quickly becomes a collapsing mess. When the citizens ask how they're going to get food, due to the roads being blocked by their rivals in Old Springfield, Homer says "Now, the following breeds of dog are edible..." He doesn't get further as every single person in New Springfield jumps the wall and ditches him.
  • In the Gravity Falls episode "Weirdmageddon Part 1", the Big Bad turns the town into a World Gone Mad/World of Chaos. Despite this, Shandra Jimenez is still doing the news, and signs off saying that she had to eat a rat for dinner. Later in the same episode, Wendy kills a bat and promptly decides to cook and eat it.
    Wendy: Nice! Bat meat.
  • In the Milo Murphy's Law episode "The Undergrounders", Milo, Zack, and Melissa encounter a society of construction workers who have been trapped underground for a long time. Zack sits down to eat with the Undergrounders but fortunately realizes before he takes a bite that the "fried chicken" is actually a deep-fried rat.
    Zack: I wonder what part of the chicken this is...
    Melissa: The rat part.
  • On Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), in the midst of the Kraang invasion, Zeck and Steranko, while hiding out, are reduced to eating cockroaches covered in stale ketchup. When they get into a fight with the Turtles, Donatello plants some "Spy Roaches" (basically, cockroaches fitted with tiny cameras), and when most of them disappear, he suspects Steranko ate them. Several seasons later, now hiding out because they're mutants who lost the backing of the Foot Clan, they are forced to resort to the same diet once more.
  • The culprit in the Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated episode "Escape from Mystery Manor" has been holed up inside his family's quake-buried mansion for decades, eating rat stew.
  • King of the Hill: One of Cotton Hill's many war stories (which may or may not be heavily exaggerated) involves this.
    Cotton: Tojo had me cooped up in a bamboo rat cage. There was nothin' to eat except rats... so that’s what I ate. After two weeks I was down to my last rat. I let ‘im live so I could eat his droppings. Called it "jungle rice". Tasted fine. By September I was finally thin enough to slip between the bamboo bars of my cage. I strangled a guard with a rope made of braided rat tails and ran to safety.
  • In Samurai Jack, Season 5 episode 1, Jack is reduced to eating a rat on a stick apparently as Aku corrupted the future that badly.
  • In an episode of Brickleberry, when Woody converted the park into a camp for children, he hired rednecks to feed the campers who made soup out of a rat, mothballs, and human fingers for the kids to eat.
  • Rick and Morty: The original Smith family that were left behind in the Cronenberg world that Rick and Morty escaped are shown to have begun eating the Cronenberg mutants when Morty and Summer visit their reality in the Season 3 premiere.
    • An unusually horrifying example, even for this show, is what happened to Beth's childhood friend Tommy, who she trapped in Froopyland, a child-friendly pocket dimension Rick created for her. To survive, Tommy was forced to interbreed with the immortal Froopyland native fauna, creating hybrid offspring that could be eaten, making it a cross between this trope and Eats Babies.
  • Played for Laughs in Time Squad when the characters help the Earl of Sandwich perfect his sandwich recipe in time for the king's cooking contest. The peasants taking part in the contest are clearly passing off some pretty gross things as fine dining, but the king gives them high scores anyway because he likes the names; Soup Du Jour Royale (which has a crows foot sticking out of the bowl), and Beef Kebab Flambe (just a roasted rat on a fork). The Earl's perfectly edible food, however, is rejected because he calls it "the Stinky Pile of Poo;" apparently it was his mother's maiden name.
  • In Disenchantment, Derek survives the petrification of Dreamland by luring seabirds into his tower room with dead rats.

    Real Life 
  • Several species of wild rat are eaten in Africa and Asia as bush meat.
    "Bwana, they're delicious roasted!" — opening line of "Jungle Doctor on the Hop", overlapping with Literature.
  • Subverted by stuffed dormice, which were a coveted delicacy in ancient Rome and other cultures.
  • Ancient Egyptians would also typically eat mice and rats caught in traps. They even used non lethal traps so they could be properly fattened up.
  • Rats were considered standard fare for the Plucky Middie in the age of Wooden Ships and Iron Men. Sailors called them "blockade mutton."
  • In a Real Life variant blending this trope with Eat the Dog, some poor Italians during World War II were forced to eat cats, whether strays or pets, in order to survive. In particular, people from Vicenza are still mockingly called "Magnagati" (Cat Eaters) at times.
    • Also done in Britain at the time, where alley cats were nicknamed "roof rabbits" to make them sound more palatable. Speaking of Britain, some scientists there ate rats from their own laboratories during rationing.
    • Leningrad besieged during WW2, especially in the winter of 1941/1942, when most of the cats and dogs in the city were eaten. Some particularly desperate people had gone even further.
    • Concentration camp prisoners in WWII, confined without food in squalid barracks, would eat the lice that infested their cots and bodies. That's right, there was so little food, even the rats had moved out.
    • Japan, like Britain, was a food-importing Empire heavily dependent on its colonies to supply it with agricultural products — more so than Britain, in fact. By mid-1945, with the entire merchant fleet either sunk or unable to move for lack of fuel and the Allied blockade, large swathes of the population were actually living over the brink of starvation with an average per-citizen intake of 1200 calories (of a required 2000). Articles in the government-sponsored women's magazines told readers how to pad out bread with sawdust, catch mice, frogs, birds, and insects for eating. If Japan hadn't surrendered when it did and Operation Downfall had been executed, it's likely that most of the resultant ten-to-twenty million estimated Nipponese civilian fatalities would've been due to malnutrition and related diseases and accidents — it's not the starving that kills you, much of the time.
    • Also in Spain in the years after the Spanish Civil War, especially in cities (things were somewhat better in the countryside).
  • During the Siege of Paris by the Prussians in 1871, many of the city's finest restaurants put cat, pigeon, and rat on the menu. Even the zoo elephants were eaten.
  • In poorer cities, some homeless people still catch and eat rats. In some English-speaking areas, one euphemism, related to the above about cats, nicknames rats caught in subway tunnels "track rabbits."
  • Rats (and we are talking about the species known for being pests, not "smeerps") are commonly eaten in some parts of China and India, but they are often farm-raised rather than taken off the streets. Clans of Indian rat-catchers, who are treated as outcasts due to the squalid nature of their work, have been known to resort to this trope to reduce expenses on food and thus afford a good education, and better life, for their kids.
  • Some years ago, there was a food scare in Jakarta, Indonesia, when a TV station aired a story claiming that some local noodle sellers were making their meatballs out of rat. A large group of noodle sellers subsequently picketed the TV station because they'd lost business as a result. (The usual ingredient for Indonesian bakso meatballs, by the way, is beef.)
  • When the first Survivor season contestants ate rats on the island, the audience actually felt that they should be prohibited from doing so, not because of the Squick factor, but because, being a game show, they didn't actually need the rats to survive.
  • Some projects are underway introducing rodents and similar animals as livestock to impoverished third-world countries, since they can live on relatively little and breed like mice, providing an easy source of meat and garden fertilizer. This is, after all, exactly why guinea pigs and rabbits were domesticated in the first place; both rabbits (in the Old World) and guinea pigs (in South America) produce lots of meat at low cost, and guinea pigs in particular are the primary target of the aforementioned efforts to expand meat production in poor countries.
  • Some memoirs of North Korean gulag survivors detail how prisoners would catch rats to supplement their meager rations. The guards, if anything, encouraged the practice because they believed that it was another way to humiliate the prisoner and because it worked as a fairly effective form of pest control.
  • In the wake of Venezuela's economic meltdown, there have been no shortage of stories of people being reduced to eating pests. None are more famous than the ones of people robbing milk trucks to harvest the rats infesting them.
  • One nutritionist consulting for NASA in the '60s recommended that potential Mars expeditions bring cages of mice as edible livestock, reasoning that such Explosive Breeder rodents could generate high-protein food more efficiently than conventional meat animals.
    • NASA and other space agencies have also considered mealworms, silk worms, and adult insects as food sources for long-duration space missions. But none have so far been used.
  • The nutria is a large rodent, native to South America and an invasive pest to North American wetlands, with bounties offered for harvesting them. State and local government have campaigned to create a market for their meat, but with limited success, so we can't expect them in restaurants soon. But they are a viable food option for residents of the poor, rural swamp counties and parishes, and yield a good deal more meat per head than rats.
  • The related capybara — the largest rodent in the world — was historically sought out by European colonists in South America for its meat. Why? Because, according to popular anecdote, based on the description they sent to The Pope, the semi-aquatic capybara was certified as a "fish" for the purposes of Lenten fasting. You can bet they loved that opportunity to eat red meat during Lent, even if it did come from a giant rat...
  • One of the key tips on wilderness survival is to find and eat earthworms since they're a safe and readily accessible source of essential protein, DESPITE the fact that they're raw and alive...
  • The annual Wild Foods Festival, held in New Zealand's West Coast region, features this among its edible fare.
  • A Western journalist reported after an earthquake in Central America that the locals were so starving they were eating rats. The 'rats' were actually guinea pigs, part of the local diet.
  • Jewish dietary law has a blanket ban on the eating of insects, with the explicit exception of locusts, this "loophole" was probably created to give poor farmers something to eat during locust infestations.
  • Fur trappers often ate the animals they trapped. Some, like beavers, are reportedly quite tasty. Others, like wolves and bears, may not be all that delicious but it's a lot easier to harvest a few steaks off the better tasting parts of the animal than to go out and try to hunt something else for supper.
  • Some scientists recommend switching to insect meat if cows become unsustainable, usually mentioning crickets, beetle larvae, or maggots, much to the horror of carnivores everywhere.
  • Three Cuban boat refugees, rescued from an uninhabited island in the Bahamas in February 2021, cited rats (along with coconuts and conch) as their main source of food during the month they were stranded.
  • Online tutorials exist for farming mealworms (darkling beetle grubs) for culinary use at home. Not as unlikely as it may seem, since mealworms are already commercially available as exotic pet food and fishing bait. They're usually described as having the texture of shrimp and a mildly nutty flavor. Media portrayal of people eating "maggots" or "worms" may actually be mealworms since reporters are not entomologists.
  • Many people in America ate cicadas when a huge brood of them emerged in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and economic troubles.
  • "Roadkill cuisine", the practice of cooking vehicle-killed wildlife gathered from roadsides, is a real thing. In some jurisdiction, large roadkill carcasses that are fresh enough are collected by highway or wildlife officers and turned over to charitable institutions, ending up as meat for soup kitchens.




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