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Five Myths About Eating Wild Game Vs. Store-Bought Meat

Can you eat a wild turkey? And if so, how?

Can you eat a wild turkey? And if so, how?

Separating Fact From Fiction

When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me not to bite my nails because "you will get worms from the dirt under them." Now, we all know that is a total fabrication made up to keep kids from chewing their nails down to nubs. These ideas start somewhere. Where most of them are born is beyond me, but once they are born, they grow exponentially!

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that when I tell someone that I want to go turkey hunting, they cringe at the idea of eating a wild turkey. I have been told that wild game is full of worms, that it is full of bacteria, and my favorite, "how can you kill a poor innocent deer?" My response to that last one is always the same: "Because they are delicious!" I refuse to debate over hunting with anyone that starts out a conversation about how I killed Bambi. I am an ethical hunter. Period.

Most of the meat we buy in stores (unless it is certified organic) is full of things that do not occur naturally in an animal, but yet when you talk about how you have harvested your own animal—an animal that has consumed food that is natural to its area for the entirety of its life—some find it revolting.

I have composed a list of some of the biggest myths in regard to eating wild game so that you can see that wild game can be a healthier choice for you and your family.

Myth #1: Wild Game Tastes "Gamey"

First of all, I am honestly not sure what this means. "Gamey" is a term I have heard over and over but when I ask someone what that means exactly they never seem to give me a direct answer. I have been told it tastes like a wild animal, it tastes really strong, and it tastes like what it has been eating.

If this were true, this would mean that if you are a hunter in mid-state lower peninsula Michigan, there is a good chance your deer will taste like corn or potatoes. This is just simply not true. Wild game tastes like meat. It tastes like it should, natural and untouched by human processes.

Myth #2: Wild Game Causes the Same Health Problems Associated With Red Meat

Wild game that falls into the red meat category (such as deer, elk, buffalo, and antelope) has a lower saturated fat content than store-bought red meat. This is because wild animals eat a natural diet and have a very active life. I think that constantly running from coyotes, wolves and bears will keep you in shape.

According to Dr. Melina Jampolis, a CNN Health, Diet, and Fitness Expert,

"...fat from wild game contains a higher proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Their nutrition statistics are very similar to a skinless chicken breast, with most cuts having around 110 to 130 calories, 2 grams of fat and 25 grams of protein for a 3 oz. serving. Deer, elk and antelope have a vitamin and mineral composition similar to beef, so these meats are good sources of iron (5 mg/4 oz.), B12 (3.6 mcg/4 oz.), B6, niacin and riboflavin."

Eating the above-mentioned meats is a great way to get lean protein into your diet.

Myth #3: You Will Get Worms From Eating Venison

A lady at the grocery store told me that she refuses to eat anything killed in the wild because it is full of worms. Maybe you could get worms from venison, but you could also get worms from eating pork if it is not handled and cooked properly.

As with any meat, it is important to butcher and cook your wild game properly. Just like in pork, parasites are present. We are a pig-eating nation, we eat so much bacon there is actually talk about a national shortage! Just kidding, that is fake news.

What is real, though, is that it is very important to know how to handle wild game. The following is a list from the University of Minnesota on how to handle your venison.

How to eat venison safely:

  • Eating fresh venison is not recommended.
  • Freeze wild game down to -4 degrees for a minimum of four days before eating or processing it into jerky or sausage to help kill parasites or tapeworms.
  • Cooking venison to 160 degrees will also help to kill parasites and tapeworms.

Just like pork raised by Farmer Jones, it is perfectly safe to eat venison!

Myth #4: Wild Game Is Tough

I once saw a video of a deer attacking a man. The deer was on his hind legs kicking the crap out of the guy... oh wait, that is not the "tough" we are talking about.

I will admit that I believed all game was tough when I was a kid. My dad, bless his heart, had a variety of game that sat in the freezer for a long time. When he finally cooked it, instead of taking the time to make several dishes, dad cooked it all the same. He rolled it in flour, threw in some salt and pepper, and deep-fried it. I was presented with plates of fried raccoon, rabbit, and squirrel, all over-cooked and tough as shoe leather.

Just like any meat, wild game needs to be cooked properly. Don't expect to cook a venison steak like you would a ribeye—the fat content is just not there. My husband talks about his mom's rabbit-and-dumplings recipe all the time: Homemade dumplings with shredded rabbit meat all slow-baked in the oven together. He always tells me how tender the rabbit was.

Myth #5: Pregnant Women Shouldn't Eat Wild Game

If this were true, most babies born since the beginning of time would have been affected. Again, it is all about how the meat is prepared. Meat of any type needs to be cooked to appropriate temperatures before consumption. This is especially important for expectant mothers.

The fact is, wild game is very safe for pregnant women and it is the most organic meat you can get. It is so much healthier for us than its commercial counterparts and, if you want to talk cost, it is way cheaper per pound.

So my advice to all of you that are worried about consuming wild game: give it a try, there is nothing to be scared of!

Questions & Answers

Question: Do you recommend hunting with non-lead bullets?

Answer: I would highly recommend it when hunting small game. There are several manufacturers offering non toxic game load these days.