Wild game more healthful due to what it has and doesn’t have
For some reason my thoughts have been revolving around health and nutrition. I’m positive my bad habits and the gluttonous partaking of sweets and treats over the winter have had an impact on why this is heavy on my mind. Maybe the ever increasing rapidity of birthdays is concerning, leading me to at least think about a somewhat healthier lifestyle. The thought of me lying on the couch unable to wade the swamps or climb the ridges in my later years is quite concerning. It’s easy to talk about getting on the right track when it comes to health but it’s far different, it seems, when it comes down to doing something about it. These thoughts led me to do a little research on not just a longer life, but a healthier, longer life.
Many moons ago, Native Americans of the Great Plains experienced a very healthy lifestyle. This was due, in part, to their diet. Natural foods like berries, fruits, and wild vegetation contain a variety of vitamins and minerals that help lead to a healthy body. In addition, a large component of the Native American’s diet consisted of wild game and fish. Their Thanksgiving turkey didn’t come from the frozen section of a local market. In fact, turkeys weren’t celebrated as a staple around holidays, for anytime of the year was appropriate to satisfy hunger. The same held true for red meat. A porterhouse or ribeye from a prime angus steer was non-existent, but the loin from an elk or bison was common. So what differences in quality, from a nutritional standpoint, are there when it comes to wild game versus farm raised turkeys, pigs and cattle?
Generally speaking, wild game contains less fat and calories than commercially raised beef, pork or poultry. Wild animals are much more active, ranging free in the wild, compared to penned animals with nowhere to exercise. Six ounces of venison contains only six grams of fat compared to six ounces of grain fed beef, which has 36 grams of fat. In addition, wild game is higher in protein and other nutrients than those animals raised in feedlots. Just a few examples of percent protein, fat and cholesterol of game species versus beef, pork and poultry are as follows. Beef contains 22.7 percent protein, 2.0 percent fat, and 69 mg/100g of cholesterol. Pork contains 22.3 percent protein, 4.9 percent fat, and 71mg/100g of cholesterol. Venison contains 23.6 percent protein, 1.4 percent fat, and 116mg/100g of cholesterol. The wild turkey contains 25.7 percent protein, 1.1 percent fat and 55mg/100g of cholesterol compared to that of a broad breasted turkey, which contains 23.5 percent protein, 1.5 percent fat and 60mg/10g of cholesterol.
Wild game is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which are often called the “good fats” by nutritionists. These fats are normally associated with salmon and tuna along with certain nuts and seeds. Red game meat, in particular, contains a specific omega 3 that scientists believe helps to fight artherosclerosis, the most common cause of heart attack and stroke. There is also data to support research efforts indicating these omega 3’s can also help ward off Alzheimer’s and depression. I can fully attest that a healthy portion of back strap helps with depression, for I haven’t taken a buck this year, and I’m getting in a funk.
What may be most eye-opening is what we don’t get with wild game. Almost all commercially raised beef, pork and poultry is done so with the additions of antibiotics and growth hormones. I am fully aware that the United States Food and Drug Administration specifically states that the use of these substances for animal production is safe for human consumption. However, many people still have questions. Though I won’t hesitate to grill a prime steak or a pork loin, I’m just bringing to light how healthy wild game really is.
Recently I was amused when a friend of mine was questioned about lead poisoning in wild game due to the ammunition used for harvest. He emphatically stated, in no uncertain terms, that is no concern of his. “And why is that?” he was asked. His humorous reply was, “I only use a bow and arrow.” Touche.
When it comes to providing food for your family, how comforting it is to realize not only the reward and satisfaction from bringing nature’s bounty to your table, but also that it is so healthy for you and your family. I do caution you though not to compare the price of wild game versus your meat “harvested” at your local grocer. The last time I checked, beef ranged from $15 to $20/pound. My calculations for the cost of venison is somewhere from $350 to $400 per pound. Well, I guess there has to be a drawback somewhere. Count your calories and not what it costs to bring a delicious wild turkey or mallard to your kitchen. Enjoy what the swamps and fields offer to you for your nutritional needs, you’ll be glad you did.
Until next time enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.