Are there any hunters in your family? Wild game, as it turns out, can play an important role in a healthy diet. What may be referred to as "field to table" eating is now seeing a resurgence, in part because it is a good source of lean protein that's low in saturated fat and calories, and it is also a great source of iron, vitamin B and zinc.
Plus, considering the cost of food these days, it is also a cost-effective source of meats/proteins for families during tough economic times. Those who don't have access to hunters can also obtain game in some restaurants; or they may be able to purchase it at a local grocer, and they can always order it online. Game raised on farms that have met regulations can be sold, while game that has been hunted cannot be sold.
Game meat is higher in Omega-3 fatty acids than domestic meats, but is not as high as fish. Wild game contains more than five times the amount of polyunsaturated fats than is found in domesticated livestock, which is good for us. Another huge plus for game is that it is free of added hormones. Wild game is also free of antibiotics, and although farm-raised game may have been on antibiotics it cannot be killed until the antibiotics have been stopped for at least five days.
Hunted game is also, of course, organic. Farmed game or any other product is organic only if raised according to specific USDA regulations. There are some cautions to be aware of when it comes to wild game. Game does contain bacteria. To prevent illness the game meat needs to be properly refrigerated (less than 40 degrees) or frozen (0 degrees) and cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Game birds should be prepared or frozen within one to two days and game animals within three to five days. There is also the concern about lead contamination from the bullet and chronic wasting disease (CWD). If you live in an area where CWD has been detected, the game meat should be tested before consumption. As far as lead contamination, the CDC recommends that the parts of the game that contain lead bullet pieces be discarded or that non-lead ammunition be used.
Many people think that cooking game is more difficult, but generally it is cooked the same as domesticated meats. Some game tends to be tougher because it is leaner, so it is important to not overcook it - only cook to medium rare. Game meat can be tenderized using a marinade or stewing it. Wrap roasts in foil or in a tightly covered roasting pan. Venison is perhaps the leanest of all game meats; as in contrast to domestic animals which have fat marbled into the muscle, venison fat is found directly beneath the skin and is removed as it doesn't have very good flavor.
The gamey flavor actually comes from the fat. Because venison is so lean, one may want to add a little ground beef or sausage for meatloaves and such. Smoking game is another option; smoked goose, duck and fish make great healthy appetizers.
One hunter describes how she steam cooks her duck. You simply stuff the duck cavity with onion and apple and wrap it in aluminum foil. Place it in a foil-lined roasting pan, and pour water around the duck package; cover with another layer of foil, put the lid on the roaster and cook for about six hours at 325 degrees.
This sounds delicious and so easy. Where's my duck? She also suggests using all-purpose, salt-free Greek seasoning on almost any game and to cook it in olive oil. So wild game is leaner and hence more healthy and cooked in a healthy way such as this it's a win-win. So this year tell the hunters that you know to send some meat your way.
Hunters, remember to donate your meat to missions or give it to a needy family if you have more than you can use.
Please remember to contribute toward your OFA nutrition services if you can. These programs are not sustainable at current levels without the support of participant contributions. Be aware that Food Stamps can be used toward your contribution. I do not want to have to make any further cuts to nutrition services. Thank you for your support.
Chautauqua County Office for the Aging Senior Nutrition Program provides nutritious noon meals at several Congregate Dining Sites throughout the county along with a Restaurant Dining Out Program. Our dietitian, Cheryl Walhstrom, RD, is available for nutrition counseling in your home at no cost to you. We also sponsor several exercise programs. Call the office for more details and information at 753-4471, 661-7471 or 363-4471.