Venison – How Nutritious is Deer Meat?
So, Alabama is home to a lot of wildlife. This is due in part thanks to the local wildlife refuge areas set up all over the state, along with the state’s physical diversity. It is not uncommon in the state to eat freshly caught fish or some venison, when in season. However, there has been less of it, at least from an import stance, thanks to some panic over a “zombie deer disease” that has been sweeping all over social media. This topic, I feel is poignant enough to address a few things about venison, or deer meat. How nutritious is it? Is there a cause for worry about contamination or any other adverse health effects when it comes to eating deer meat. And if there is, what is the best way to go by getting some? Let’s talk about it.
A History of Venison in Alabama
Hunting is a primary cultural cornerstone in Alabama. Even before the state became a state, the diversity of the land from the mountains to the beaches was enough to produce a diverse amount of wildlife ranging from waterfowl, small game, rabbit and deer. Especially deer. Alabama is home to white-tailed deer and has been considered a staple in Alabama’s hunting culture. Before the 1900s, during the settlement phase of Alabama, deer, and other small game were mostly hunted for meat sustenance.
However, the story changed at the other end of the 1900s where the white-tailed deer was nearly hunted to extinction thanks to a combination of pelt hunters, looking for leather and settlements of cotton plantations, which misplaced the wildlife into smaller concentrated areas. The deer population dwindled down to the point where there were only 5,000 animals left.
They were brought back from the brink of destruction, thanks to a new implementation of hunting laws in the 20th centuries. “Until the early twentieth century, all deer had been fair game for hunters, but biologists convinced hunters to shoot only bucks with antlers visible above the hairline. One buck can father many fawns in a season. However, a doe can bear only one fawn or one set of twins a year. Thus, the key to rebuilding the population was to leave the does and shoot only bucks.”
Another significant change was the agricultural shift from cotton to soybeans. “This created a high-protein source of food for deer. When soybean prices collapsed in 1980, much open agricultural land returned to woodlands. Also, areas clear cut by paper companies turned into thick undergrowth, which provides ideal habitat for deer for years.”
These days, hunting has given Alabama revenue, a past time, and a diet occasionally local game.
Nutritional Value of Venison
According to Wikipedia, “Venison may be eaten as steaks, tenderloin, roasts, sausages, jerky and minced meat. It has a flavor reminiscent of beef, but is richer and can have a gamey note. Venison tends to have a finer texture and is leaner than comparable cuts of beef. However, like beef, leaner cuts can be tougher as well.” So, if I were to interpret this correctly, it is already slightly more healthy in comparison to beef, but still retains the same cooking properties of beef as well.
Well, what sort of stuff does it have to offer?
Nutritional Value of Ground Venison
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 7 g||10%|
|Saturated fat 3.4 g||17%|
|Polyunsaturated fat 0.4 g|
|Monounsaturated fat 1.6 g|
|Cholesterol 83 mg||27%|
|Sodium 66 mg||2%|
|Potassium 309 mg||8%|
|Total Carbohydrate 0 g||0%|
|Dietary fiber 0 g||0%|
|Sugar 0 g|
|Protein 22 g||44%|
|Vitamin A||0%||Vitamin C||0%|
|Vitamin D||0%||Vitamin B-6||20%|
I compared and contrasted 3 oz of ground venison to 1 ounce of ground beef, and already I can tell a major difference. There are 7 grams of total fat in 3 oz of venison. In an ounce of ground beef, there is a total of 8 grams of fat. That means that one ounce of venison, there is a third of the fat compared to beef.
There is also way more Vitamin B 6 in Venison with 20% at 3 oz vs 15% in 3 oz of beef. There is also 22 grams of protien in venison with only 12 grams in 3 oz of beef. So, there is no wonder that venison is popular in Alabama. So, what is stopping it from becoming a mainstream thing?
The Zombification of Deer
In 1967, one year before George Romero invented the zombie genre in “Night of the Living Dead”, there was already a creature that was exhibiting zombie-like symptoms. A captive Colorado deer was found looking listless, drinking an excess amount of water, and refusing food. Eventually, it would self impose starvation but it would still drool, and grind its teeth while repeating its nonsensical walk cycles with its blank facial expression. In the end, it would die from excessive brain damage, because it rotted from the inside out.
This deer was infected with CWD or Chronic Wasting Disease. The disease is a neurological one which has spread to hoofed animals like elk and moose. It is a variant of Mad Cow Disease. However, unlike Mad Cow Disease, there has been no recorded case of a human being ever catching it.
That still doesn’t deter the state of Alabama from imposing all the sanctions they can to make sure that no one can get hurt. Thanks to Alabama having a stake in recreational hunting bringing tourism to the state, it has been illegal to import deer meat into the state of Alabama since the 70’s. The state hunting and fishing departments also started an active monitoring program for CWD during the 2001-02 hunting season. Since then, nearly 8,000 deer have been tested and CWD has not been detected within Alabama.
As of yet, there has not been a deer in the state reported to show signs of this disease, but it is hitting closer to home after they found an infected dead deer at Mississippi.
However, the earlier strict regulations combined with the availability of deer cleaning and processing facilities, there is little chance of this becoming a major threat. Just make sure the deer you shot has been tested for any CWD and that the brain and spinal cord are properly separated far away from the venison meat you are planning to eat.