Taking a Chance on Wild Game

By Iron Chef Leftovers

I have to give some props to the Quebecois government. The French speaking part of Canada has the right mindset when it comes to food – they allow the production of unpasteurized milk cheese and allow the import of it (making it the only place that I know that you can legally get it in North America, although you still can’t transport it back across the border), it is about the only place in North America where you can find horse and seal on the menu and now they are allowing a trial period to let chefs serve wild game (critters actually hunted in the forest, not their farm raised cousins) in their restaurants.

From the Montreal Gazette:

…the plan will evolve gradually and under strict supervision by the wildlife and agriculture departments to ensure that no animal species is endangered and that food safety is assured. For now, only white-tailed deer from Anticosti Island in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, home to more than 160,000 of the animals, will be allowed for sale. The squirrel, hare, muskrat and beaver, will come from all over the province, but will be available only for a short period during the fall hunting season. Blanchet said only species whose numbers were not endangered and which are known to be free of bacteria or illnesses harmful to humans were chosen for the pilot project.

There are a small number of restaurants that are participating in the trial period, most notably Toque, Au Pied de Cochon and Joe Beef. For those of you who are not familiar with the Montreal restaurant scene, those are arguably the 3 best restaurants in the city and the chef/owners of all 3 of those places are avid hunters/raging alcoholics/complete nut jobs. They have also long been on the leading edge of localvorism, nose to tail eating and sustainable food raising practices, so why not be on the bleeding edge when it comes to wild game?

You want a good reason for this:

Laprise (ed. Note: chef/owner of Toque) said allowing restaurants, and eventually specialty grocers and butchers, to sell wild game will also reduce waste. He cited figures indicating that only as little as 40 per cent of all meat from the 26,000 to 28,000 wild deer killed during the annual hunt is butchered and cooked. The rest is left in the woods or by the roadside and goes to waste.

Of course, Martin Picard of the absolutely amazing Au Pied de Cochon and head psychopath of the Montreal food scene was already ahead of the game game when he published a recipe for squirrel sushi in his Sugar Shack cookbook:

The sushi dish, he wrote in the introduction to the squirrel recipe, was his way of getting even with the little rodents for all the damage they inflicted at his sugar shack.

It looks something like this:

squirrel-sushi

 

4 comments to Taking a Chance on Wild Game

  • I’ve always found the proscription on venison to be troubling.

    On the one hand, I understand that we want to keep the food we eat safe and it’s damned-near impossible to do that when you have a jillion hunters out there banging away and selling meat to local butchers. On the other hand, a lot of that meat gets wasted which seems, well, a waste (not to mention disrespectful of the animal, but that’s another story).

    I can buy elk, but I can’t buy venison. This makes no sense to me.

  • Iron Chef Leftovers

    This is a tough subject for me. I grew up eating wild hunted meat and absolutely love the stuff and know it does not hold a candle to the farm raised game meat. Because all of that meat generally came from my dad shooting it himself – we knew that it was properly handled and dressed. I know a number of hunters who are not nearly as careful and the meat is somewhat suspect and this is where I worry. At least with the farm raised game, it is, in theory, all processed correctly at a USDA inspected facility so it eliminiates some of the guesswork there, so I understand why, from a quality standpoint, there isn’t a push to allow wild game for sale in the US. Wild game can also carry a miriad of diseases that, even if their farmed cousins have, they probably wouldn’t make it into the human food supply with proper heard management and inspection. ***I am oversimplifying the argument, it is much more involved***

    The flip side of the argument is that we allow foraged foods to be sold (I would be willing to bet the risk of illness from eating say wild mushrooms is probably higher than that from wild game) and there is a significant amount of wild caught fish that ends up on the table that doesn’t go through a standardized processing chain. Yes, people get sick from eating that stuff, but how many a year? Maybe a hundred, if that? You get one e.coli outbreak from a contaminated processing plant and you will make a hell of a lot more people sick than that.

    If you want to get your hands on some farm raised deer, I know a couple of sources. If you want to wait until morel season descends upon us, I have some friends who have promised me mushrooms and I have a freezer full of deer from my dad that is going to make one heck of a feast for my friends (and the good wine is coming out for that one)!

  • Iron Chef Leftovers

    Don’t worry, you already are. :)

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