Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Is Wild Game Really Organic?

Organic eating is the fastest growing food phenomena in America. Everywhere you look, certified organic labels are strategically placed on packages attracting consumers to a healthier food choice. Organic produce, cereals and meats found in grocery stores across America have experienced double digit sales growth each year for the past four years, according to the latest Organic Trade Association survey. In the case of some organic food categories, consumer demand is outpacing supply with no signs of weakening.

From little league games to the office lunchroom, conversations are taking place about organic this and organic that, but hunters have been eating organic since before it was cool. At least that's the claim made through a growing number of Instagram and Facebook posts. But can hunters accurately claim the wild game photographed from their kitchen table is really organic? Are hunters eating organic by filling tags and stocking their freezers with free-range, fair chase wild game?

Let's break down what it means to be organic. Merriam-Webster defines organic as

1 a: of, relating to, or arising in a bodily organ. (Hunters are good here. The wild game hunters eat is related to an animal muscle group.)

b: affecting the structure of a living thing <an organic disease> (It's safe to say hunters affected the structure of a living thing because it's on a dinner plate.)

2 a. of, relating to, or obtained from living things <organic matter> (Check the box. The meal hunters are eating was once living until it was caught or shot.)

b. of, relating to, or containing carbon compounds (Hunters are good here too. All living things on planet earth are carbon-based.)

c. of, relating to, or dealt with by a branch of chemistry concerned with the carbon compounds of living things and most other carbon compounds. (While hunters are not really referring to chemistry while using this term, a chemical reaction definitely takes place when a backstrap hits a hot grill.)

d. relating to, producing, dealing in, or involving food produced with the use of feed or fertilizer obtained from plants or animals and without the use of laboratory-made fertilizers, growth substances, antibiotics, or pesticides. (This specifically addresses food production and hunters use the term organic referring to meat obtained from animals they kill.)

So far, wild game is organic by definition. Next, let's narrow the field of view to the technical aspects of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) definition. I won't make your eyeballs bleed by reading through all of the USDA regulations, but let's analyze livestock requirements. After all, when hunters use the word organic it's done in relation to meat. The main requirements for livestock are: 

1. Raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors. (100% yes for this criteria. It's called wild game for a reason.)

2. Not administered antibiotics or hormones. (Another 100% A+ here. Free-range, wild game animals are not receiving antibiotics or hormones.)

3. Fed 100% organic feed and forage. (This is the gray area. It is the one criteria that is impossible to verify unless you have become one with the animals and are living as part of their herd.)

All that being said, in the current and historic social context defining organic, wild game absolutely qualifies. Let's speak specifically to whitetail deer because they are the most pursued wild game animal in North America. A free-ranging whitetail deer that is hunted, killed and butchered by a hunter is infinitely more organic than any certified, grass fed, organic beef you buy at the store. Why? Besides everything addressed thus far, consider the complete quality of life a deer experiences compared to the neatly packaged, carefully weighed and labeled cellophane meat product in the grocery store. Moreover, do you know where that meat came from? Do you have a natural connection to the meat aside from swiping your bank card at the register? Did you prepare and practice shopping for that meat for months on end, just waiting for the one opportunity to place it in your grocery cart?

The deer's entire existence defines complete freedom. They live in the wild, adapt to a wide variety of habitats, eat natural forage, constantly avoid predators, exist as an integral part of the food chain yet live in complete survival mode. This begins the moment they're born and ends only at the time they die. Deer have roamed the land this way for thousands of years and mankind has hunted them for just as long. To be a hunter involved in that process is organic as hell. Nobody needs a government certification stamped on a package to tell them that.

Besides truly being more organic than any meat consumers put in their grocery cart, venison is also a healthier choice than store bought beef. According to the USDA, venison beats beef in several categories. It is lower in calories and fat while delivering higher amounts of protein, vitamin B-12, B-6, iron and magnesium. Not to mention the ancillary health benefits the act of hunting provides. While I haven't found any scientific studies comparing calories burned grocery shopping versus hunting whitetails, I'll place my money on hunting as the healthier activity. So next time you prepare the perfect venison steak, get your phone out, snap a picture of those grill marks and post up your organic, free-range masterpiece! As a hunter, you put the OG in organic.

Nutritional ValueVenison Roast%DVBeef Tenderloin Roast%DV
Amount Per 3 oz.85 g85 g
Total Fat 2.7 g4%21 g32%
Saturated fat 1.1 g5%8 g40%
Polyunsaturated fat 0.5 g0.9 g
Monounsaturated fat 0.7 g9g
Cholesterol 95 mg31%72 mg24%
Sodium 46 mg1%48 mg2%
Potassium 285 mg8%281 mg8%
Protein26g52%20 g 40%
Vitamin B-1260%35%
Vitamin B-623%10%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

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