People hunt for a variety of reasons: the sense of accomplishment, the thrills, the meat, and also the memories of hunting with friends and family. One of the biggest benefits to hunting is the quality venison that they eat or if they on far away trips, they will donate it to local soup kitchens or food banks. However, people don’t generally think of venison as a replacement for other meats, like beef, in their diet. Putting wild game on the table and providing sustenance for your family is hugely rewarding, but are there other benefits to eating venison? How does it stack up to beef in nutrition and taste? Here’s a side-by-side comparison of venison and beef.
While venison and beef contain many of the same vitamins, venison has a slight advantage over beef in vitamin content. This Livestrong article calculates that venison contains more thiamine and riboflavin than beef, a little less niacin and vitamin B-6, and the same amount of vitamin B-12. While beef does have more minerals overall, venison is still a good source of the same minerals beef provides, including iron, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.
Venison is a leaner meat than beef, which makes sense considering the active lifestyle of a wild deer in comparison to that of a domesticated cow. It is lower in calories and lower in cholesterol than both beef and poultry. Also, in most cases, venison is also higher in protein.
Taste is, of course, subjective and, certainly, some people do not like the taste of venison. The flavor of venison is heavily impacted by how the meat is handled immediately after harvest and especially by how it is prepared and cooked. If venison is processed and prepared correctly, chances are you won’t even be able to taste much of a difference or may even come to prefer its flavor over beef. In fact, Alex Robinson from Outdoor Life conducted a blind taste test where venison beat beef 8 to 2.
When you talk about food safety with venison, people immediately jump on the issue of chronic wasting disease (CWD). Currently, there are no known cases of CWD being transmitted to a human being. On the other hand, there have been documented cases of humans contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (the human version of mad cow disease) from infected cattle.
Deer live a life free from artificial growth hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals or medicines that may be employed for use in commercial animal production operations. There is one special risk associated with deer meat and that’s residual lead from the bullet, assuming the deer was killed with a gun. Of course, if you take the deer with a bow then you don’t have to worry about this. For deer taken during rifle season, hunters can mitigate the risk of ingesting lead particles or residue by cutting liberal margins around bullet entrance and exit holes when butchering their deer.
Besides the obvious health benefits, eating venison is important to the balance of nature. It has been well documented that hunting is one of the most efficient and effective ways to keep deer populations within a sustainable carrying capacity for the local ecosystem. The annual reduction of deer population helps to decrease deer-vehicle collisions, which account for hundreds of human deaths each year.
Becoming self-sufficient through hunting and butchering your own deer meat increases your sense of independence. Knowing that you don’t have to rely on a grocery store to provide yourself and your family with a healthy, safe and great tasting (renewable) natural resource is an incredible feeling.