Saint Louis University

Author: Scott Marler
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013

Thirty-six weeks. Just thirty-six more weeks until deer season begins in Missouri. For thousands of hunters across the state this is the most highly anticipated weekend of the year. Besides hunting itself, these ten days provide an outlet to escape from the stress of a dietetic internship. It is also a great opportunity to spend much needed quality time with close friends and family outside in the beautifully gloomy short days of November. Perhaps I am a bit partial to this time of the year because my birthday always falls during deer season. And, what better a way to spend one’s birthday than spending the entire day outside.

Clearly I love hunting deer. However, because of my time spent at SLU, I have a new respect for hunting; hunting presents the opportunity to consume a sustainable, nutritious source of high quality protein. Deer meat, or venison, can be a healthy alternative to more commonly eaten meats like beef and pork. Here is a side-by-side comparison of venison and beef:

Venison Beef
Calories/3 ounce portion 134 247
Total Fat 3 grams 15 grams
Saturated Fat 1 gram 6 grams
Cholesterol 95 mg 76 mg
Protein 26 grams 23 grams

When compared to beef, venison packs more protein per 3oz portion, and is lower in total fat, and in total calories. Although venison does have slightly more cholesterol than beef, it is lower in saturated fat, making it a healthier alternative. Additionally, venison is similar to beef in taste, and can be added to any traditional beef dish, including chili, stew, soup, fajitas, meatloaf, “beef and broccoli”, sausage, quesadillas, burgers, or eaten by itself as steaks, kabobs, jerky, or roasts. The possibilities are endless!

Hundreds of thousands of Missouri residents are already well aware of the incredible benefits of deer hunting. In the 2012-2013 season, 311,304 deer were harvested across the state, providing a year-round supply of locally raised, free-range, all-natural, organic meat, thus decreasing the need to buy commercially mass-produced meat full of antibiotics and hormones. In most cases, these hunters harvest deer within 200 miles of their homes, reducing the transportation required to provide meat to the dinner table.

In addition to being an extremely sustainable, eco-friendly nutritious food, venison is also helping to feed many local low-income families who commonly lack quality protein sources in their daily diet. The Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) collaborated to start the Share the Harvest program, which allows hunters from across the state to donate venison to their local approved butchers and meat markets. From here, the meat is packaged, frozen, collected, and then redistributed to local families in need. This is especially significant since many food banks only have the means to provide these families with canned and boxed donations.

Saint Louis University Dietetic Interns cooking with venison

Since its inception in 1992, the Share the Harvest program has provided Missouri families with over 2.5 MILLION pounds of venison! The program currently averages over 200,000lbs of meat donations per year. The Conservation Federation of Missouri had this to say about the program:

“Share The Harvest is a WIN WIN WIN program. Hunters win by doing their part to help people in need; cooperating processing plants win by getting positive feedback for their involvement and donations of locker space; and participating organizations win by having a ready-made service project for a good cause.”

So, if you like to spend time outdoors, cook, or if you just like to eat healthier, local cuts of meat, do not miss the opportunity to enjoy deer hunting in the autumn weather of one of the nation’s finest deer hunting hot spots next November.

Saint Louis University Dietetic Interns cooking with venison