Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Venison: Lean, Healthy and Delicious!

It's that time of year, time to eat something a little more organic!

I bet there's a lot of you that have never tried venison.  Some of you might not even really know what it is, BUT WAIT, I'll tell you before you go running off to google.  Venison is deer meat, most commonly from white-tailed deer.  It's a great alternative to boring old beef and chicken, and boy is it lean!  Hunters bag over 6 million white tailed deer per year, so if you're willing to look a little bit, there's plenty of venison out there for you to try it!

Why is Venison so lean?  Well, deer are extremely active animals, with very herbaceous diets. They're constantly darting from field to field, and never accumulate a caloric excess to the point that would allow them to gain large amounts of fat.  All that running packs some pretty dense muscle on their bones as well, so when these two facts are combined it's easy to see that Venison could quite possibly be one of the leanest sources of land-based protein.  

For example, let's compare.  

1 oz of Venison has 46 calories, .3g saturated fat, and 9.8g of protein.

1 oz of lean, broiled steak has 55 calories, .7g saturated fat, and 8.5g protein.

1 oz of a lower quality cut of steak has 90 calories, 2.5g saturated fat, and 8g protein

Excuse my inconsistent significant figures

Even the leanest beef can't compare to an ounce of natural, organic Venison.  To bring this point home, 4oz of Venison on average has around 180 calories and 35g of protein.  4oz of an AVERAGE CUT OF 70/30 BEEF has 350 calories and 20 grams of protein.  The clear winner? Venison.

And as I mentioned above, Venison is Organic!  Most farm raised animals have been fed some sort of steroid of hormone in order to increase their muscle mass (or possibly just their size in general).  Bigger muscles= more meat= more money for the farmers.  I'm not going to harp on farmers for their techniques, it's easy to see why this is done, and for the most part it's not a huge deal. But these injected meats definitely are NOT as healthy to consume as their organic counterparts, and it's hard to get more organic than Venison.  

Venison is also packed full of vitamins and other nutrients, like Vitamin B (and all it's counterparts), D, E, magnesium, manganese, zinc, omega 3 fatty acids, Copper, and Potassium.  It even has a good serving a folate in it.  This meat is packed with health benefits!

Unfortunately, Venison isn't quite as "consistent" a meat as say, beef or chicken.  What I mean by this is that the toughness and taste of the meat varies greatly depending on how the animal was taken.  Here's a quote I found from another website stating a few factors that can cause Venison to lose some of it's taste or tenderness:

"Young animals are generally tender by nature, and require little, or no aging to ensure tenderness. However, if the deer runs a great distance between wounding and death, there's a good chance it will expend all its glycogen reserves. When this happens, the pH level of the meat increases, speeding bacterial growth."

So there's a few other factors in determining the taste of the meat itself.  Also, there's a few small nuances with cooking/dressing/storing the meat that can be important, due to the highly natural diet of deer.  Follow these tips to ensure that your Venison is both safe and delicious:

Cooking Tips
  • Parasites and tapeworms are common in venison; hence it should be frozen for minimum of two hours. This will kill any parasites or tapeworms.
  • For tougher cuts like rump, round and shoulder, moist heat methods such as braising (simmering in a small amount of liquid, in a covered pot) is recommended.
  • Prepare a hearty stew by combining venison steak pieces, root vegetables, spices and broth.
  • Skewer marinated cubes of venison steak with vegetables and grill in the oven or on the barbeque.
  • To mask the gamey flavor of venison, spices or marinades can be used.
  • A vinegar-soaked cloth will remove hair from the meat, which can otherwise produce undesirable flavors.
  • You can add other fats to avoid the meat from becoming too dry. Rub a roast with oil, butter, margarine, bacon fat or sweet or sour cream to add moisture, richness, and flavor.
  • In case you have to marinate venison, do so in the refrigerator only. This is because its extreme sensitivity to heat might spoil it, at room temperature.
  • Always defrost frozen venison in the refrigerator and not at room temperature

All in all, Venison is a perfect alternative to traditional beef, chicken, turkey, pork, and similar meats.  Think of it, a healthy red meat!  What are the chances.  I suggest that you try this meat out ASAP, either for lunch or dinner.  The taste may take a little getting used to, it can be very strong and some people don't completely enjoy it at first. But others absolutely LOVE IT.  I plan to pick some up soon myself, probably in the form of Venison jerky.  

Be adventurous, try something natural, lean, healthy, and delicious!

Cook carefully, enjoy wholeheartedly, and good luck!


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