There is no better feeling than harvesting your own meat and being able to feed yourself, your family, and your friends. We truly are so fortunate for the gifts that Mother Nature provides but frankly, I think we’ve become a bit detached from our roots. I think the more work that we put into sourcing our food by actually getting to know your farmer and rancher or better yet, planting your own garden, hunting, and harvesting your own animals, the more appreciative we become.
I organized the farmers market for my town last summer and I will never forget a story the produce vendor told me. He was buying asparagus at the grocery store and thought: Wow, someone actually had to plant, grow, and harvest every single one of these asparagus just for me! He knew the time and effort spent in producing a successful crop because that was his livelihood, too. He had a different appreciation for making a simple trip to the grocery store and having access to an abundance of fresh produce because he knew the hard work and dedication it took for everything to come together and arrive on the shelves.
My point is that we are so much more appreciative of our food if we actually have an active part in its production. This can even be true for just simply making your own food at home rather than going out to eat. We have become so detached from where our food comes from that we lack an appreciation for the true value of our food. We rely so heavily on our local grocery stores, but do we really stop to think and appreciate the journey of the fresh produce and the perfectly cut filets of meat at the butcher counter?
I remember living in Spain during college and seeing the butcher shops: every animal hung freshly harvested so that you could actually see the cuts of meat you were getting. For most of our markets in the States, you go to the meat department and everything is so nicely cut that you can hardly tell if you’re getting a chicken breast or filet of fish.
When did we become so detached from our foods? And why is it that we don’t want to see where our food comes from? Does it make us feel guilty? It shouldn’t; we are primitive beings and it is in our nature to hunt, gather and harvest. I believe harvesting your own food, whether that’s growing your own garden, raising your own livestock, or hunting, puts you back in touch with reality the way nature intended. We become more appreciative and thankful for what brings us health and nourishment but also become more grounded.
I used to not take as much time to care about where my food came from until I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. Changing my diet made the biggest impact in my healing process which forced me to slow down and start taking care of myself, starting with making all my own food. I began researching food and understanding the food system and the importance of knowing where your food comes from and the impact it has on your health. It was then that I gained a much greater appreciation for quality foods and their origin when I noticed the difference it made in my health.
Hunting also gets a bad rap. It is mainstream media stories like Cecil the Lion that create a distorted image of the true meaning of hunting. Hunting is highly regulated for population control and habitat enhancement in order to protect the animals and actually boost the population. In fact, in 1907, only 41,000 elk remained in North America but thanks to hunters’ strong effort to restore and conserve habitat, there are more than 1 million elk today. Hunters are also major advocates for the well being of all wildlife, they’ve added $440 million per year to groups like RMEF to support conservation efforts and pay roughly $1.6 billion a year for conservation programs. Without hunting, animal herds become overpopulated leading to starvation and death and even an outbreak in diseases. More often than not, hunters are avid believers in always giving back more than they take out.
Plus, there is something so beautiful about hunting. It’s the being out in nature, harvesting an animal straight from the source, and knowing that this is the food chain at work. Michael Pollan described it best in The Omnivore’s Dilemma when he reflected on the harvesting of a wild boar. He said, “And whatever of this Prey the man left behind the other animals here, the Scavengers, would in due course fold back into the earth, nourishing the oak so that it might in turn nourish another pig. Sun-soil-oak-pig-human: There it was, one of the food chains that have sustained life on earth for a million years made visible in a single frame, one uncluttered and most beautiful example of what is.”
This is everything.
I thought of this specific passage when I was skinning my elk and watching the dogs and chickens devour every little scrap that fell from the carcass. I thought of the animals that would be so grateful for whatever remnants were left behind. And I thought of how appreciative and beyond thankful I was for the life of this animal that will nourish my family, friends, and me.
I started off this post with the intention in mind to write about the health benefits of game meat and why it’s so sustainable; however, it quickly shifted gears as I began typing into to something a little more personal. But health benefits of wild game meat are always important to mention, so here are a few references if you’re interested in reading more about why game meat is better for your health.
Hopefully this post enforces people to reflect on their own relationship with food. I encourage everyone to slow down...prepare your food with gratitude and understand the origins of your dinner plate; perhaps it will make us all a little more aware and appreciative of what actually brings us health, nourishment and life.