Mucho Guide to Game

Are you game?

Have you got game? No, no, not that kind of game. The kind of game you put on your plate. The sometimes controversial meat of animals that aren’t farmed for human consumption. Often hailed as a healthier, cheaper alternative to eating ‘typical’ meat, it’s time to sort out the nitty gritty of game.

The Lowdown

My first question is this — who decided that eating chickens, cows, lambs, and pigs etc was considered the norm, with children across the country being brought up on these meats, but squirrels, pheasants, geese, deer, goats and the likes are considered strange, only to be approached by the bold? When doing research for this article, I came across an image of a skinned squirrel. Why did that photograph instil in me a nausea that I wouldn’t feel so strongly when coming across a similiar image of a cow?

To clarify and defend my repulsion, it’s not as though squirrel is a particularly popular form of game. In fact, it can be argued that it is one of the rarest. More common forms of game include pheasant, partridge, venison (aka deer), or rabbit.

So what’s the go then? Kind of like fruit, there are certain times during the year when fresh game is not available. This time is called the closed season. Certain species of game in certain locations cannot be hunted during this time to allow the numbers to be kept up. On the contrary, because there are so many different species of deer, fresh venison can be found pretty much year round.

Less of a hunter & gatherer, and more just a gatherer? Don’t fret — game is more readily available than ever before, and no matter where you live, there should always be one game option within reasonable access. Supermarkets like Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s & even Ocado all stock a variety of wild game in the on season.

If the game you’re after isn’t around by the end of September (well & truly into game season), be pro-active and ask your local store to stock it, and see what they say. No dice? You’ll find that quite often high street butchers often sell game from local estates.

The Catch

There is no research (that I could find, anyway!) specifically looking at the health risks or benefits of game. However, when looking at their nutrition profile, it’s clear that game meat is a good source of lean protein that can be consumed in moderation as part

While no research that I could find looked specifically at game meat in terms of health risks or benefits, based on their nutrition profile, they can be considered a good source of lean protein that can be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet along with skinless poultry, fish and trimmed lean meats.

Put bluntly — there is no information on whether there is an increased risk of heart disease as there is with processed red meats, but there is evidence that it doesn’t have the health-promoting benefits associated with fish. So, do with that information what you will.

One thing that is of note is that there is research by the Food Standards Agency showing increased lead levels in people that consume game meat on a very regular basis. This is because — yep, you guessed it — the bullets used when killing the animal. So, it’s recommended that pregnant woman and children avoid consumption of any game meat that is harvested with lead bullets, but generally, it’s totally fine for consumption. When we are talking about people who consume it on a regular basis, we’re talking more than twice weekly, so don’t stress if it’s a rare thing for you. To be honest, most lead shot is removed during prep of the meat, but tiny fragments that cannot be seen by the naked eye can sometimes become embedded in the meat.

The Cheatsheet

I guess at the end of the day, game meat is pretty straight forward. It’s for some people, but definitely isn’t for others. Some eat it for necessity, some eat it for health reasons. But here are 3 main reasons to eat game for the newbie.

1 — It’s wild, natural & free-range. This means that your butcher should be able to tell you it’s exact provenance, so don’t be scared to inquire! Also, because it’s hunted and not raised on a farm, it’s closer to the types of meat that would have been available in the Palaeolithic. It also means that there are no concerns about hormones or antibiotics accumulating in the fat! How good is eating food where you know exactly where it came from and exactly the quality of life the animal had?! Spoiler alert… it’s pretty good.

2 — It’s good for you. For example, venison is super high in protein, low in saturated fatty acids, and contains higher iron levels than any other red meat does. Pheasant contains a high level of iron, protein, & vitamin B.

3 — It’s better for the planet. Depending on what you buy and where you get it, you can still find game meat even if you don’t know anyone who hunts, and have no interest in it yourself. It’s not mass manufactured meat — it comes from a place where meat eating first began.

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