Sure, it's easy to drive ourselves to the grocery store to buy a package of plastic-wrapped, Styrofoam-backed ground beef for a dinner of greasy burgers. But why? Allow me to make a short case for why wild game is the best alternative for store-bought meat - it might go deeper than you think.
I'll start simply with an (obvious) observation: hunting is hard work and burns calories. Compared to pushing a grocery cart around, hunting expends more energy and increases cardiovascular health. A 200-pound male hiking up and down moderate to steep hills for 90 minutes burns about 1,000 calories. Okay, you can take that fact as far as you want to go. I told you I would start simply.
Secondly, wild game meat is healthier than beef or pork (or in some cases chicken). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the following is true for a 3-ounce serving of meat:
- Beef - 259 calories, 18 g. fat, 7 g. saturated fat
- Pork - 214 calories, 13 g. fat, 5 g. saturated fat
- Caribou - 142 calories, 4 g. fat, 1 g. saturated fat
- Deer - 134 calories, 3 g. fat, 1 g. saturated fat
- Antelope - 127 calories, 2 g. fat, 1 g. saturated fat
- Elk - 124 calories, 2 g. fat, 1 g. saturated fat
- Moose - 114 calories, 1 g. fat, 0 g. saturated fat
From the above, I infer two things: if I ever get the chance to hunt for a moose, I will, and the deer in my freezer is about two times better for me than the ground chuck I can buy down the street.
Additionally, bison, which isn't on the list above, is often referred to one of the best foods for women because it is high in iron, low in fat, builds muscle and promotes weight loss. In fact, bison has less fat and less cholesterol than skinless chicken.
Elk, in particular, is low in sodium and a good source for niacin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and Zinc.
But here's where I may suggest something a little removed from the typical "wild game is better..." argument. Suppose we who eat what we hunt do so almost exclusively. What I suggest is that because we source our meat in large stocks, up to a couple hundred pounds at a time if we're lucky to get an elk, doesn't mean that we need to eat excessive amounts of it.
If our freezers run empty of game meat, perhaps we not "supplement" with store-bought meat and come up with some creative alternatives. I'll be the first to say that in my home we do not necessarily eat meat at every meal, but I love when we do have it. Of course, people in different areas have either more or less access to wild game, but I have many trustworthy friends who have read the book, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health, and they have shared with me its insights on reducing or cutting out all meats from one's diet. Although I'm not ready to go "meat-free," I am ready to go "mostly-local." Exceptions are occasionally eating out at a restaurant or when eating at a friend's house.
This is just something to think about.
Also, if you would like a recommendation for a vegetarian cookbook, the most used in our home is Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source with More Than 200 Recipes for a Healthy and Sustainable You. We easily rely on it for 2-4 meals a week.