Healthy Aspects of Eating Venison

Eating venison, wild with one of the United States’ most natural, healthy meats.

| November/December 2011

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    Eat venison, and you eat healthy, wild and local.
    Dave Allen/Fotolia
  • istock-venison-roast
    Deer meat makes excellent fajitas, stews and stir-fries. When mixed with pork, it also makes a mean meatloaf. Sekowsk
  • fotolia-deer-forest
    To the meat hunter, a couple of mature does quartered away is a welcome sight.
    Wild Geese/Fotolia
  • istock-venison-jerky
    The less desirable cuts of venison can be used to make jerky, summer sausage, and various other dishes. Barach
  • istock-venison-steak
    The venison tenderloin (backstrap) is excellent as grilled steak. Patterson

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  • istock-venison-roast
  • fotolia-deer-forest
  • istock-venison-jerky
  • istock-venison-steak

These days, we put a premium on organically produced meats, vegetables and fruits. Additionally, the locavore movement is sweeping across the nation as conscientious consumers look for ways to buy that rib-eye steak from the farmer down the road rather than take a chance on something they find in the supermarket. But often lost in the shuffle is consumption of a lean meat that’s as local as it gets, and depending on the surrounding farmland, may just approach organic status.

By eating venison, you're eating healthy, wild and local.

As an avid hunter living in southwest Virginia, I try to bring eight or nine whitetails from field to freezer annually, as the major meat source for my wife, Elaine, and me and, when they were young enough to be a part of our household, for our two children. I really believe in the health benefits of eating venison and wild game meat, and in the healthy lifestyle of hunting.

Lindsay Thomas of Bogart, Georgia, is the editor for the Quality Deer Management Association, an organization dedicated to the scientific management of whitetails.

“I feed my family with venison, and I have always felt that venison is the ultimate ‘organic’ food,” he says. “When I see marketing phrases like ‘cage-free’ and ‘organic,’ I wish that the public knew that hunters have access to the most cage-free, organic, chemical-free, natural food in the world. And venison is extremely good for your health.”

To understand deer meat, like anything, you should consider what the animal is eating. Venison is only as organic as the corn or soybean field the deer typically grazes in, but you get the idea. Before modern agriculture brought with it pesticides and myriad chemical sprays, venison would have been totally organic. Today, we’re not so lucky, but when you consider the average deer, it approaches organic. Ironically, true organic venison would come from caged deer that weren’t allowed to graze where they please, and the animal’s life would not be nearly as fulfilling.

10/1/2013 3:28:58 PM

Jim is right: proper handling of the carcass makes all the difference in the quality of the meat you eat. There is a new product on the market called The Tenderbuck Electrostimulator. They've adapted commercial meat processing technology, making it portable so that hunters can use it in the field to bleed-out and tenderize their freshly harvested wild game. No more need to soak it in ice for days, beat it with a mallet, drown it in marinades, or any of the other time-consuming methods we've all been using. Check it out at

Jim Shoemake
11/4/2012 2:30:39 AM

I really enjoyed this article, but was disappointed it what was missing. For novice hunters looking to supply meat for their table, it is imperative that they not just learn to process their own harvested animals but learn to field dress and skin it properly, as this makes all the difference in the world in the quality and flavor of the meat and really will determine whether their friends and family will actually enjoy eating it. This is especially important in warmer areas of the country, such as in South Texas where I live. Too many hunters treat the meat too casually and carelessly, letting the hair get all over the meat, not field dressing it quickly enough, not getting it cooled down quickly enough, and not being scrupulously clean in the entire process. Finally, and maybe even most important of all, is the icing down and aging of the meat before processing. We keep our venison iced down in ice chests for at least three days, draining the water and re-icing it daily during the wait. And during the processing, we remove it one quarter at a time to cut it up so the meat is always ice cold. Besides protecting the integrity of the meat, it makes the meat easier to slice and clean. You also get better results, even if you grind the meat into sausage or hamburger (grind it twice, once with large hole blade and then with small hole blade), if you clean as much of the fascia and connective tissue off the roasts and separate the muscles from each other. This is especially important if you plan on cutting mostly steaks and roasts. If they will follow these guidelines, they will have tender, delicious meat that friends and family will love and most times, if they don't tell, won't even be able to tell from commercial store-bought meat.

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