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Eat Local – Go Hunting!
By Marisa Futral, Alabama Hunter Education Coordinator
When most people think of eating local, they think of local farmers’ markets with fruits and vegetables. In Alabama, the State Department of Agriculture has a very effective “buy local” campaign encouraging the use of locally grown foods. That is great for agricultural crops, but what about those who would also enjoy the homegrown approach for meat? One solution is to go hunting.
Wild game meat is better for you than most processed beef and poultry. The majority of grocery store beef comes from commercial operations where cattle are housed in mass quantities. When many animals are kept close to each other, they are prone to sickness. To prevent sickness, cattle producers give the animals antibiotics whether they are needed or not. Most are also given growth hormones and large amounts of grain to speed up their weight gain so they can go to the slaughterhouse quicker. However, when you hunt your own food you know that the animals you harvest have not ingested antibiotics or artificial hormones. This translates to healthier food for the family table.
In addition, venison, wild turkey and other game meat is lower in fat than commercial poultry, pork and beef. For example, 3 ounces of venison contains only 3 grams of fat, while 3 ounces of commercially raised beef contains 18 grams of fat. This means that venison is also lower in calories. That same 3-ounce serving of venison has only 134 calories, while 3 ounces of pork has 214 calories and beef has 259 calories. Therefore, even if you eat the same portion of meat, you are eating fewer calories with venison. Wild game may even help you lose weight!
As an added bonus, wild game meat contains omega-3 fatty acids, which studies show are beneficial to the heart. These compounds also play vital roles in every cell of the human body, and wild game meat is loaded with them. Omega-3 fatty acids form in the chloroplasts of green leaves, a big part of the diet of many game animals.
The meat of commercially raised beef that does not have access to pasture grasses lacks other beneficial vitamins and nutrients that are present in wild game. For instance, most game meat is higher in protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins than commercial meats. Some people experience vitamin deficiencies because they are living on mostly processed foods.
By including wild game meat as a part of your diet, you can help eliminate vitamin deficiencies and enjoy better health. In summary, when you consume wild game meats, your food will be healthier for you and as close to natural as possible. Become part of the “eat local” movement − go hunting!