Venison – sustainable and delicious!

Since I can rarely afford non-industrial meat, I eat mostly vegetarian. But in December, I moved back to Missouri to live with my boyfriend, who is definitely a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. Luckily for me, my boyfriend shot three deer this past fall, so we’ve both been happy eaters.

Deer numbers are at historic highs and large deer populations are well-documented to wreak havoc on ecosystems. So, not only is venison a sustainable meat, but eating venison can actually help the environment.

Venison is also an extremely lean meat, with a more delicate texture than beef. Although some people complain that venison tastes “gamey,” I have found that venison only takes on a gamey flavor if cooked improperly.

Here are a few tips on how to cook venison:

1) Choosing a recipe – Use venison in any recipe that calls for beef.

2) Marinate – Marinating tenderizes the venison.  Here are two of my favorites:

  • Alsatian marinade: Combine three pounds of venison, one diced carrot, one peeled and diced yellow onion, three peeled cloves of garlic, two sprigs of fresh parsley, two sprigs of fresh thyme, two bay leaves, 15 black peppercorns, and one bottle of dry hearty red wine, such as côtes-du-rhône, in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. For a complete recipe using this marinade, see Venison Stew.
  • Thai-style marinade: Combine three pounds of venison, four cups of low-sodium soy sauce, two cups of fish sauce, and 1/4 cup of sugar or honey. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. This marinade works great for grilled tenderloin or backstrap steaks.

3) Lean meatballs – Since deer meat is so lean, venison meatballs can be tricky. But when done properly, venison makes delicious, delicate meatballs. Most people cut ground deer meat with high-fat ground beef or ground pork, but I like to keep my sustainable meat sustainable. So, instead of cutting the meat, I add a little grated cheese (I like a hard sheep’s cheese) and some panko (whole-wheat works well) to ensure that my meatballs with hold together.

Then, handle the meatballs with care. Make sure your meat is very cold when you combine ingredients. Wet your fingers in a bowl of cold water before you form each meatball. Put meatballs on a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap and chill them in the fridge before you add them to your dish. Gently submerge the meatballs in your sauce or stew. Venison meatballs work best in dishes that can be finished in the oven instead of being stirred on the stove-top. For a great recipe to use venison in lieu of beef, see Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine (add 1/2 cup of finely grated cheese to the meatball recipe).

For more venison recipes, visit:

(Image courtesy of Sifu Renka via a Creative Commons license.)

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15 thoughts on “Venison – sustainable and delicious!”

  1. Laura Keeth-Rowledge

    Couldn’t agree with you more about the tastiness of venison.

    However, it’s very important to emphasize that the only environmentally acceptable source of venison is wild. Game farmed venison (deer, elk, etc.) is an environmental horror story that threatens wild populations with disease, genetic pollution, habitat destruction, and an economic venue through which poached animals can be sold.

    Please don’t buy game farmed or ranched venison!

    Take the time to learn the ancient art of hunting and butchering, and then practice it with respect and reverence. You’ll be amazed how connected you’ll feel to the food on your plate!

  2. Hey, I just wanted to say: kudos for sticking with your ethics, and avoiding industrially produced meat!

    I don’t eat any birds or mammals myself… and I’ve had far too many kinds of animals as pets to ever deliberately shoot *any* type of mammal, outside of direst circumstance… but I think that self-caught venison (or boyfriend-caught, as the case may be!) is definitely more ethical food than CAFO-made meat, which most folks eat all the time without even thinking about where it came from/ what was done to get it onto the plate. Lots of times, veg-heads & carnivores think they’re on opposite sides… not necessarily so! Thanks for the reminder, and for making food choices based on ethics– rather than on (the more popular factor:) blind convenience. Well done!

  3. I agree that hunting of deer is virtually a necessity because there are not enough predators to keep the populations in check. Of course a few hunters end up shot each year as well so be careful. The New Zealand venison production industry is interesting. Introduced deer were an environmental disaster there until they rounded them all up or hunted them. Now they raise them in paddocks on grass, mainly for the European market. It looked like a pretty nice life for a deer to me. Ocean shipping is a much lower use of energy than most people imagine. I’m sure this won’t appeal to purists, but it is an interesting system.

  4. I used to be an anti-hunting type but would happily bite into my CAFO burgers without a second thought. Now I’m actually considering learning how to hunt! The idea still makes me cringe, but it’s a far more sustainable and ethical (not to mention healthy) way to source your meat.

  5. What kind of a jerk kills a deer? I can’t even believe this article was posted. It is deer that are overpopulated, it is humans! The delicate balance of ecosystems ensures their own survival—if they are left unaltered.

    In addition, many animals suffer prolonged, painful deaths when they are injured but not killed by hunters. More than half of animals shot do not die the first time and have to be shot repeatedly to finally be killed.

    If you think you are actually doing these animals, or our environment any favors, you are seriously mistaken!

  6. I was just talking about this debate on another site; someone had written an article saying basically that hunters were the salvation of the environment…

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with hunting per se, if you’re a carnivore who’s doing that INSTEAD of getting meat from corporate agriculture — it’s way more sustainable & more ethical than our current system of CAFO-driven animal agriculture.

    But: overpopulation among prey animals is caused by hunter annihilation of predator animals. Anyone following the wolf massacres in Idaho? One reason given by the governor for the unprecedentedly long season for wolf-hunting (right into birthing time, when females w/ pups can be killed, no problem, when wolves only came of the Endangered list about 5 minutes ago) is ‘to protect sport hunting prey-animal populations.’ For hunters to systematically kill off the wolves and cougars, and then claim to be doing us a favor by controlling the deer population… that is some pretty weak logic, it seems to me.

    Also: when animals overpopulate, and many die b/c the environment can’t support them, the heaviest toll is taken on those who reproduce — b/c the nutritional demands are greater for gestating animals, they’ll be harder-pressed to survive lean times. Then there will be less young born the following year, and the overpopulation will gradually be curbed. Shooting males doesn’t limit birth; if the goal (as stated) is population control… um, maybe some more ‘thinking-through’ is in order?

    If someone’s gonna choose to eat meat, I’d say definitely hunt rather than buy from factory farms that pollute land & water for miles around, contaminate surrounding crops with e. coli & salmonella, use a RIDICULOUS amount of water resources, contribute to antibiotic resistant bacteria, and produce hormone-laden ammonia-soaked beef… definitely, hunting is better than *that*. But at the same time, a lot of the justifications for sport hunting seem to involve some pretty twisted logic.

  7. I don’t know about Missouri, but deer in many parts of the country can have BSE aka “mad cow” disease. The same goes for elk. Lots of formerly avid hunters in Colorado now will avoid eating it due to their worries.

  8. My husband and I are the beneficiaries of a friend who hunts. NY State has a program that allows hunters to donate venison to foodbanks. The hunter fills out some minuscule paperwork at the deer processor who butchers the meat and freezes it for pickup by a charitable institution.

  9. Why do deers show BSE like symptomes?

    Right, because hunters are feeding the *wild animals* with mastening feed which also includes animal meals.

    Available food is what is controlling the number of prey and also hunter.

    If there is not enough food, population shrinks, if deers are feed more fawns are born and grow up.

    If predators kill much prey, but there is still enough food, than the remaining animals reprocreate more.

    Under pressure, no matter if hunters, wolf or cougars, the prey is stocking up its number the more individuals are killed.

    Only if there is not enough food anymore, the number of prey steadily decreases and then the predators also decrease because there is no longer as much food as before.

    Best example are isolated island around the UK, south sea and other places.

    On these isles animals like horses, goats or wild herbivores are without predatores…but they do not turn the islands into desert or reprocreate until there is no more room on the island.

    There is always a steady number of individuals. More reprocreation after a hard winter when more individuals have died and less born youngs when there is a higher number of individuals which have survived.

    No predatores…but still a healthy population.

    Humans and the feed they give to deer is what is increasing their numbers so drastically.

    Because hunters want as much animals as possible to hunt and also strong/big as possible.

    The feeding also gives them a reason the continue hunting because *there are just too much deer for the ecco system*..which the hunters/landlords themselves caused.

    What happens if hunters do not feed or care for the *animals which are too much* is showen all over history.

    Like with the buffaloes, or the wild cattle and horses and elks in europe…if hunters hunt to decrease a number of animals they will do it..until the animal vanishes from existence.

    The only reason it does not happen with deer or wild boars is because hunters do not really want to decrease the number of deers, just to feed them to get more deers and hunt them.

    To say that hunters are helping the planet with killing the to great numbers of animals is just a joke.

    Hunters kill mostly the healthy and strongest animals because..who would want to eat ill animals or have a small trophy on the wall?

    Wild predatores are the only ones which can for sure tell which animals are the weakest or ill and hunt and eat these animals.

  10. Thanks for this post (and the website as a whole, which I just found). The post strikes a chord here, as I was a vegan for many years, and now hunt.

    I look forward to following EDB.

  11. Sticking to the subject of venison being delicious and not the pointless debate of who the justified predators are, here’s my tasty, easy recipe:
    Put 1 to 2 pounds of ground venison in the crock pot on low with on chopped onion, one chopped green pepper, soy sauce to your liking OR tsp. of salt, pepper, and about 1 cup of water. Cook on low about 4 hours (or until no pink left). Great over rice or bread.

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