Ever peeked at the list of ingredients printed on your packaged foods and wonder, “What is THAT?!” Let’s take hotdogs, chicken nuggets, or deli meats for example …. You may read things like: BHA, Sodium Nitrite, Sodium Benzoate, TBHQ, or MSG. They sound pretty alien, right? But the truth may be even more unappetizing …
To reduce food waste and extend their “shelf life”, many packaged foods you buy are pumped with additives, preservatives, and hormones. These substances and chemicals help slow air, fungi, bacteria, mold, or yeast from decomposing our foods. Others enhance the appearance, flavors, and textures of foods so they look attractive to consumers.
UH OH … so if we’re actually consuming chemicals, what does that mean for our bodies? Studies have determined that digesting these preservatives and additives (even in small amounts) can increase our risk to heart disease and cancer while others can change behaviors or cause severe allergic reactions like asthma and nausea. Ok … YUCK! There’s gotta be something we can do about it? Health experts across the country recommend you reduce the amount of packaged food you consume, and instead eat organic foods and lean, fresh meats and poultry.
Oooo … Fresh veggies, fruits, breads, and other produce can easily be found at farmers markets and community gardens. Yum yum! But where does one even begin to find natural meat for their diet? Well have you ever thought of becoming a locavore? Locavores are people whose diets consist of foods and natural resources that come from their local area – such as wildlife! People have actually hunted and consumed wild game for thousands of years … ever since our species could walk! And for good reason. Harvesting wild game meat is as natural and healthy as it gets!
Not sure why? Well nibble on these health facts about harvesting wild game :
- Chemical-free meat! This is a big one. Because you can find wild game right in your local environment, you can transport the meat right from your backwoods to your freezer or kitchen table. There is no need for chemical substances to keep your meat from spoiling. And if you do need to preserve the meat for long durations, you can use more natural methods: like freezing, salting, smoking, or pickling.
- Less Fatty. Wildlife are constantly active and foraging in their habitats. Because wildlife are free-ranging, they have leaner meat compared to domesticated farm animals that are cooped up all day in pens or fenced in areas. Leaner meats have a greater source of protein that helps your organs and muscles function. They also contain less fat and less calories than domesticated animals.
- Naturally Grown and Fed. Domesticated livestock are usually raised and harvested quickly to meet our high demands for grocery meat. So most industrial farm animals are injected with growth hormones and fed grains (like soy and corn) so they fatten rapidly. This means they are not eating their natural diet of food. Because of this, industrial meat is way higher in fatty acids called Omega 6’s, which can increase humans’ chances of diabetes and obesity. Meanwhile, hunters benefit from eating wild game because wildlife forage for natural foods and grow naturally in their habitat. And as a result, wild game meat contains no man-made hormones and has more essential fats (Omega-3s) that lower the risk of heart disease, arthritis, and depression. Now that’s a win-win!
- Lots of flavor! When you eat wild game, your taste buds will have a party! Because wildlife is locally-sourced, you are likely to eat it closer to the date it was harvested. Aha! So therefore, the meat is fresher and has had less of a chance to decompose, which results in a higher nutritional quality. Plus, wildlife also eat a variety of foods when foraging the land (like grasses, nuts, fruits, insects, other prey), which means their meat is loaded with essential nutrients like iron and zinc.
- You don’t have to second guess where it comes from anymore. When hunting, you can choose where you would like to harvest your meat from. Several hunters have said that when you harvest your first game, you know your food is a gift from nature.
- Sustainable meat. We may use chemicals to reduce food waste … but did you know that 40% of all food is still wasted? But by hunting, you can create a smaller environmental footprint. That is because you are only taking what you need to sustain yourself and your family! You can also use other parts of the animal for food, clothing, and other objects. And by purchasing your hunting gear and licenses, you are actually funding the conservation of wildlife and habitats across the country. So really, you are giving back to Mother Earth! How cool is that?
- Healthy exercise. Hunting is not always just standing still. You may have to walk into miles of backwoods and natural areas while carrying your hunting gear! That’s great cardio for your heart and blood circulation. Hunting also is an intimate connection to your land. You scout for wildlife tracks and signs, search for your perfect hunting spot in the trees or hillsides, and maybe even promote wildlife habitat (like building large brush piles). By spending time away from the bustle of everyday life, the stress we carry from school or work can melt away. And if you bring your family, you can exercise and experience the peace and beauty of nature together.
This all sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? Start your journey to becoming a locavore by watching this video or checking out the “Learn More” tab below. You will be “stuffed” with hunter safety knowledge that locavores need to collect wild foods! And don’t forget to check out the lesson activity below to discover how locavores can take sustainable portions of wildlife by adhering to hunting laws and regulations.