Is Wild Game Meat Still a Healthy Choice?

by Jun 21, 2019Wild Cooking

In his book Food. What the Heck Should I Eat, author Dr. Mark Hyman M.D. writes,

“This food [meat] that we’ve eaten all our lives has become the most controversial thing on our plates.”

Wild game meat has always been a healthy choice, but is it still?

You better believe it is! Hunter conservationists wouldn’t risk life and limb if it weren’t. Ask any hunter conservationist why they go through such efforts to acquire wild game, and you will likely get the answers like wild meat is hormone and vaccine free, organic and healthy.

But what does it mean to say wild game meat is healthy?

According to Dr. Hyman, such claims that say 1) red meat contains high levels of saturated fats, which cause heart disease, 2) red meat causes cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity and 3) if you avoid meat you can easily get all the protein you need from plants are not true. He says the science simply does not support that meat is the disease-causing food that some people have tried to make it out to be.

Meat is high in protein; however, protein is found in almost all food. But meat is the single best source of protein, and it has many vitamins and minerals. An average adult needs around 60 to 90 grams of protein each day and more if they are physically active. Adults need around 30 grams of protein, three times a day, to maintain and build muscle. Dr. Hyman identifies venison and elk as some of the best meats you can choose for a healthy diet.

Our bodies need at least 20 amino acids to build and repair muscle. There are nine essential amino acids that we must get from our food every day because we can’t store them. Quinoa, buckwheat and soy contain all nine essential amino acids and so does meat.

Dr. Hyman says, you can get a portion of your daily protein from plants, but for most people, especially as people age, they need more protein to maintain muscle mass. Protein from meat is an important part of a healthy diet.

Generally, wild game meat is classified as a “lean” meat, meaning it has a high protein, low fat and low-calorie content ratio, which means it is very good for you. Since wild animals feed exclusively on natural vegetation, their meat contains more omega-3 fatty acids and less saturated fat than the grain-fed, factory-farmed animals. The key to wild game’s health benefits, just like organic, free-range farm animals, is their all-natural vegetation diet.

Wild game animals’ fat content ranges from about 0.5 % (i.e., moose) to 4 % (i.e., waterfowl).  Domestic farm animals have around 25 to 30% fat. Wild game meat is high in zinc and iron because wild animals eat natural vegetation as opposed to commercial grains. At 27 grams and 26 grams of protein per 3 ounces of meat, bighorn sheep and wild turkey meat have some of the highest protein contents of all the wild meats.

Despite the controversy surrounding bear hunting these days, black bear meat tops the charts at whopping 28 grams of protein per 3 ounce of meat (33% protein content) and a 3.5 gram serving provides 51% of your daily needs for iron, riboflavin and thiamin!

We all know the health benefits of the “white” meats, especially turkey. Besides not having growth hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals, and due to its consumption of a diet of seeds, green plants and bugs, wild turkey meat is higher in protein, has lower fat content, lower cholesterol and more calories than domestic turkey meat. Any turkey hunter will tell you that wild turkeys have lean, mean torpedo-shaped bodies and that they are not shaped like their obese butterball farm-raised cousins.

There is a catch to wild game meat though. To sell the idea that you should be eating healthy “wild game,” much of the popular health literature refers to penned-raised animals including wild boar, rabbits, pheasants, elk and fallow deer as “wild game.”  If an animal is raised in a pen, it is not equivalent to the real deal.

If you have never hunted before, or if you have retired the ol’ thunder stick but like the idea of incorporating real wild game into your diet, go get your hunter training certificate or dust of your old shotgun and get out there – go hunting in the great Canadian wilderness! It’s the healthy thing to do.


Cover Image: © HLPhoto / Adobe Stock


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