Herd of Deer

What is Deer Meat?

Deer meat is the best meat you can buy, or even better hunt. Meat derived from any species of North American deer is known as Venison. Whenever a menu item or a piece of meat at the butcher shop is listed as “venison”, it has more than likely been taken from a deer. However, Purdue University states that the term “venison” can also be accurately used to refer to a wide variety of large game mammals of similar build such as antelope, caribou, moose and elk. Due to the diet of most deer, both wild and farm-raised, the meat produced tends to be tougher and has a flavor described as “gamey”

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Deer Meat Benefits and Uses

The reason many people have started to explore the culinary possibilities of venison is that it provides several benefits to the health of the consumer. Although the nutritional components of each serving of venison will vary depending on the cut of meat, overall it is considered a healthy alternative to other red meats such as beef. The benefits of eating deer meat are as follows:

Heart: Compared to the meat produced by lamb or cows, deer meat has a lower content of elements that are typically considered the drawbacks of consuming red meat. This makes venison a viable substitute for mutton and beef, especially for those at risk for heart problems, stroke, disorders related to high levels of testosterone and those who simply want to reduce the fat present in their abdominal areas.

When considering using venison as a red meat substitute for the purposes of improving heart health, a significant factor to take note of is the low sodium content. On its own, a serving of venison is relatively low in sodium. If prepared with seasoning low in salt, this could benefit heart health.

Vitamin B and Homocysteine Prevention: Homocysteine is the name given to a problematic amino acid known for causing several disorders, diseases and significant damage to the body. This is because significant damage to the blood vessels can occur as a result of high levels of homocysteine. This causes diseases and disorders such as heart disease, diabetes and an increased risk of atherosclerosis development and advancement. High levels of homocysteine is believed to be the result of low levels of vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, both of which the meat derived from deer has in abundance.

A study conducted recently, also found that homocysteine probably plays a role in either the development or advancement of osteoporosis, as women with lower vitamin B12 intake were at a higher risk for suffering osteoporosis. Also of note is the role vitamin B12 has in protecting the cells of the colon, thus preventing cancer of the colon.

Anemia: Anemia is a disorder that occurs as a result of iron deficiency. Symptoms include general weakness, fatigue, discoloration of the skin (the skin becoming pale or taking on a yellowish tinge in particular), irregularity of the heart, inadequate breath support, lightheadedness or dizziness, pains in the chest, poor circulation (as indicated by cold extremities like hands and feet) and headache. Being a rich source of iron, venison can be an important component of a meal for someone wishing to treat and/or prevent anemia.

Moderation of Saturated Fat: Compared to its more popularly known counterparts, beef and mutton, a serving of venison has a saturated fat content that is more appropriate for most adults for whom less than seven percent of their daily intake of calories should be accounted for by saturated fat. This translates to the recommended intake for a daily diet of two thousand calories, having no more than sixteen grams of saturated fat. Venison is an ideal meat for this, as a single serving contains only four grams. This makes it more suitable than beef, which offers five grams of saturated fat per serving and even more with a piece mutton, which offers eight grams per serving. This enables the body of the venison eater to reap the benefits of saturated fat without suffering the consequences of overindulgence.

Immune System: The fat present in venison enables the body to develop a stronger immune system, particularly those who live in polar regions or areas with harsh climates. A stronger immune system enables the body to operate and prevents it from developing sicknesses. The iron present in venison also serves as a vital factor in the regulation of body temperature.

Muscle: The relatively high content of protein and iron present in deer meat is important in the development of muscles. Deer meat is rich with iron, which is an important component for the development of myoglobin.

Increased Hemoglobin Content: Another benefit of the high content of iron in venison is iron’s pivotal role in the development of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is essential to the functioning of the human body, as it serves as the primary carrier of oxygen in the red blood cells. This enables the red blood cells to deliver oxygen throughout the body and enables the body to recover quickly when a significant portion of red blood cells have been lost, either through internal or external wounds or in the case of menstruation for women. This is of particular importance for women who are pregnant, as more iron than usual is needed for the health of both the mother and the child.  Hemoglobin is essential in the distribution of oxygen to all the major organs, including the brain, which uses roughly around twenty percent of oxygen in the blood.

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Deer Meat (Venison) Side Effects

Iron Overdose: Though mostly beneficial, iron can be harmful with overabundance. Side effects of iron overdose include the following in afflicted individuals: stomachaches, diarrhea, blood in the stool, constipation, discoloration of nails, palms, lips and teeth, epidermal rashes and itching, swelling in the mouth and throat, paleness, excessive perspiration, hair loss, higher risk of blood clots, fever, weakness, drowsiness, muscle and joint pain. Individuals suffering from hemochromatosis should avoid excessive amounts of venison and other iron-rich foods in their diet.

High Cholesterol: Though venison has a much lower content of cholesterol than its other red meat counterparts, those at risk for high cholesterol and disorders associated with high cholesterol should avoid the ingestion of meat altogether. Those at risk for high cholesterol have a higher probability of suffering from atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, heart attack, angina, and strokes or brain damage as a result of the stroke.

What is the Best Deer Meat?

Although in terms of flavor, texture and mouthfeel, the best source of venison is a matter of opinion, there are various concrete objectives that can be factored into choice of deer breed from which venison is derived. Some favorite breeds are as follows:

The Axis Deer: A favorite for its light flavor and tenderness of the meat, the Axis Deer is a species indigenous to India and Sri Lanka. It is available both to hunt in the wild and on farms in Texas, as well as being an invasive species in Hawaii, where hunters are a welcome element in curtailing the ever-growing population that has been found to be harmful to both the state’s agriculture and natural environment. The axis deer is most popular for its flavor and has the added benefit of being low in fat.

Fallow Deer: A common species of deer throughout North America, the fallow deer is popular among hunters for its abundant population. Their large size ensures a large yield of meat, but extra care must be taken in preparation if the consumer wishes to avoid a tough texture and a gamey flavor.

Red Deer: A larger member of the deer species, the red deer is common in the United Kingdom where, until recently, it was only made available to royalty and members of the aristocracy. Prized for its rich flavor, high protein and low-fat content, it is the most popular form of venison among British chefs and it is now available in supermarkets across Europe.

White Tail Deer: Due to the large population across North America, white tail deer venison is not hard to come by in this region. However, its gamey flavor sets it apart from the species listed above. It is listed here, as it is an easily acquired meat and also much more palatable than other common species in North America.

Buying Deer Meat

Although venison is most commonly acquired via hunting, the health benefits have made it more popular in butcher shops. However, cooking venison can cause some unexpected issues with the inexperienced chef and so the following should be considered.

Cut: The cut of deer meat desired is dependent on the intention of the chef. Slow-cooking venison is a popular practice, as it softens tough meat and is a relatively easy form of cooking the meat. For this method, it is best to purchase a roast, which is generally derived from the rear of the deer. The toughest, but most affordable option is often the stew meats, which are generally butchered from the more muscular tissue on the neck and the back of the animal. A slow-cooking method is generally perceived as the best way to serve this portion of the deer as well.

Grain: Particularly important when purchasing venison steaks is that the cut should be even with the grain of the meat. This is one of the benefits of purchasing venison from an experienced butcher and it will ensure a more even cook and a superior texture.

Fat/Gristle Content: It is generally best to avoid fatty pieces of meat. An experienced purchaser of venison will look for fat or gristle in their cut of meat. The color of venison meat that is of high quality is generally a purplish/deep red. The fat or gristle on deer meat will look more white and opaque than the desired meat and will make an already tough meat, even tougher.

References:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22062729
http://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/venison

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Darcy is an aspiring herbalist with a special interest in healing through natural & alternative means. After being diagnosed with an auto-immune disease Darcy decided to become self-educated and informed about the natural medicines the earth provides us with.

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