When discussing wild game recipes, some people would ask me “How can you eat that?” Easy, really. I grew up in a hunting household where we ate wild game. We loved to hunt. And we ate what we hunted. No hidden secret or big mystery. With kids of my own ranging from 6 to 18, putting food, especially meat, on the table became a priority. So I’ve carried on the tradition of filling the freezer with fish and game as a means of sustenance. Saving thousands of dollars in grocery bills doesn’t hurt either. But there is another huge benefit of eating wild game – it’s good for you.
Venison, or wild game, is some of the healthiest meat that can be consumed today. Whether we realize it or not, most commercially raised cattle, pork and chicken are fed with growth-enhancing feed and sometimes steroids. I’m not one to cause a public scare, but I’ve seen many undercover reports on the abuse and neglect that animals endure and eventually end up on supermarket shelves. It’s pretty sick. I’m not bashing the local grocers, but I think if people knew what it takes to put cattle and pork into those neat little cellophane-wrapped packages, I’m betting we would have a lot more vegetarians running around.
I never really considered the nutritional value of wild game, it was just food. As a young man, I would shovel just about anything into my mouth when I was hungry. But in 2007, I planned a bison hunt to the Black Hills of South Dakota in hopes of filling the freezer with prime meat from the heartland. As I conducted my research before the hunt, I was impressed to learn the incredible nutritional value of bison meat. It is higher in protein than any red meat, and is lower in cholesterol than chicken. Bison, which is the same thing as a buffalo, is also extremely high in iron and fatty acids. The health benefits from eating bison meat are incredible. It’s reported to improve your iron count and reduce blood cholesterol. I guess the Native Americans were on to something. When I brought home over 400 pounds of prime, natural bison venison, it was the start of my crusade for a healthier red meat.
Deer meat is also “healthy meat” and is rich in benefits. Like most venison, it contains very little fat, and is high in protein. Animals that live in the wild usually work hard to gain fat throughout the year, but that gest burned up quickly when it turns into energy enabling them to survive the winter when food is scarce. They are not eating chemicals or hormone-enhanced feed. Let’s be honest, your meat doesn’t get any more “free-range” than running around the woods eating natural food sources. Compare 3 ounces of beef that contains 247 calories and 15 grams of fat, to 3 ounces of deer meat that contains 134 calories and only 3 grams of fat — about one-sixth the amount of saturated fat. Venison also wins out over beef with more vitamins and minerals per serving than beef including iron, B6, niacin and riboflavin.
In today’s health and environmentally-conscious society, many people are becoming more and more mindful of the quality of the food that they put into their kids (and their own) bodies. Our family has been “living off the land” for years, so it’s good to see other people embracing this behavior as well. And as I mentioned before, there are financial benefits to this as well. We process our own deer meat using pork to grind and produce deer burger. Since the venison has virtually no fat, we need to add a little in order to create burger. After the cost of the pork, permits and licenses, the cost comes out to be around .76 cents per pound.
Venison is not at “gross” or “un-cool” to eat as it once was. The masses are becoming better-informed consumers and realizing the positive health and financial benefits of eating wild game. I continue to tout the benefits and share our bounty with friends and family. So the next time you’re at our house for a cookout, you can bet it’s probably one of the healthiest meals you’ve had in a while. And you might not even know you’re eating wild game.