Photo Caption: Smoking the forequarter and loin off of a wild hog I shot a few weeks ago.
By: Tom Claycomb
Besides being flat-out good to eat, wild game is healthier than anything you can buy in a store, so I wasn’t surprised when I heard the younger health-conscious crowd is becoming increasingly interested in hunting for the benefit of eating wild, organic meat.
I’d think the guys who are always worried about the decreasing number of hunters and fishermen would capitalize on this angle. Especially Fish & Game, since they bewail the fact that the number of outdoorsmen buying fishing/hunting licenses is shrinking.
First off, let me lay out where I’ll be coming from: I’m by no means in the “no pesticides, eat only organic” food crowd. It’s easy to set on the sidelines and criticize big business and things you don’t have a clue about.
Yes, it’d be great for everyone to be hunter/gathers. The earth can support 5.5 million hunter/gathers. The problem? The world has 7.4 billion people. So if you’re in the food supply business, you know you have to hustle to feed the world. Sure, I’d like not to use any pesticides. Have you ever farmed? If so, you didn’t just set at the edge of your field helplessly wringing your hands while a swarm of insects devoured your crops, did you? If so, you’d soon be out of business.
Do I like giving cattle hormones? No. But if we do, it only takes 6 lbs. of corn to turn into 1 lb. of meat. Without hormones, it takes 7 lbs. of corn to convert into 1 lb. of meat. Using hormones takes less farming to grow corn, which would use less diesel for plowing/cutting/harvesting crops (for you climate change worriers).
I’ve been in the cattle business in some dimension ever since I was 8-yrs. old. So I’m pro-livestock. If you look at the big picture of how many people the U.S. and ranchers/farmers worldwide have to feed, then you see the challenges that they daily face. Some rag on them for using antibiotics on their livestock, and yes, they do over-use them in feedlots. But I have a question: How many people reading this article would be dead if it weren’t for antibiotics? Same with livestock. A lot would have died years ago.
Like I say, I’ve been in the beef business nearly all of my life. As a kid, we had a small cow/calf operation. Then I worked on ranches, then beef plants, and at one time was the Quality Control Director for the five large Con Agra beef plants, and even now I consult for beef companies. I could go on and on and write a book on all of this, but suffice it to say, if you want organic food, why not hunt/fish and gather what plants you can? Sure, I will die loving a thick, juicy ribeye, but my family loves wild game, and it is for sure healthier.
Let’s talk about fat. There are three kinds of fat:
1. Subcutaneous fat- This is the fat cover (like on your belly).
2. Intramuscular fat- This is the seams of fat between muscles.
3. Intermuscular fat- These are the snowflakes of fat you see in your beef ribeye. Deer, elk, and moose don’t have intermuscular fat (or, as it is called on cattle, “marbling”).
Americans can talk all we want about eating healthy, but we like the taste of fat. If that weren’t true, then why do you not still see a McLean burger on McDonald’s menu? Because if it were super lean, it would be dry and tasteless, that’s why. The marbling is what makes a steak juicy, but we have to overfeed them to get good marbling. We don’t really want the first two types of fat, but to get a steer to marble, the other two come along as well, even though those two aren’t our desired fat. Deer don’t have marbling, which is why you need to cook the meat slower, not as hot, and not as long, or it will be dried out.
I say the above just to let you know that if you’re going to eat wild game, then you need to learn to cook it differently, or you won’t enjoy it.
Now for one disclaimer: You are what you eat. So if the game you shoot is feeding on polluted feed, then it can become contaminated. Right? Same with your fish if the water has become contaminated. In some places I’ve fished, they warn you not to eat fish from there more than 2x’s/week due to the high mercury levels. Sometimes contamination can come from a natural source, and sometimes it comes from old mining operations. I say this to warn you to observe what your wild game is eating.
One big lie I want to expose comes from the mouth of the antis. Yearly I will read an article where a local hunting organization donated X-number of pounds of meat to charity. Luckily for the world, the antis caught wind and ran it and sampled the meat and discovered that 96% of their samples came back positive for lead. By the skin of their teeth, thousands of orphans were spared a cruel death.
What kills me is that no one throws the BS flag on their sampling methodology. There is no way that if you took 100 random samples that 96% would come back positive for lead. If the bullet hits a bone, it could fragment, right? But if it does, it is going to cause the meat to be bloodshot, and you trim it out. So don’t buy into the lie about the amount of lead contamination in deer meat.
As we wrap up, maybe the earth can’t grow enough in the wild to sustain the whole earth’s population. But that doesn’t mean the people who like to hunt and fish can’t harvest enough to live on, or at least subsidize their diet.
Tom Claycomb III is a product tester for outdoor manufacturers, hunter, and outdoor writer, writing from Idaho.