Wild Game

Debates about the consumption of animal proteins usually arrive at a point where the meat advocate claims that the real issue is how the animals are raised. If one would just choose grass-fed beef and pastured lamb, all would be good. Unfortunately, that flies in the face of the massive amount of research showing saturated fat from any animal source beyond a certain amount is associated with higher rates of heart disease. I’m sure many people reading this will disagree with that statement. Just review the analysis of the evidence over at the Harvard school of public health website and decide for yourself whether they are more credible than those who are claiming otherwise.

On the other hand, wild game is truly very low in saturated fat. On the order of fish. Despite claims to the contrary, wild game is not particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids. Although, they do you have why some people consider to be a better ratio of omega fatty acids. As an aside, the whole concept of omega ratios is also somewhat questionable, which you can also find addressed on the Harvard school of public health website. This should not be a surprise, because fish have the advantage of consuming algae that produce DHA and EPA. Land animals have to rely on their limited ability to convert alpha linolenic acid in grass to EPA and DHA.

Nevertheless, there are a number of different ways to ensure that you get adequate omega-3 fatty acids without over consuming saturated fat. The low level of saturated fat in wild game like venison would appear to be a “loophole” for the meat eating crowd. I am not going to dispute this and will even point out that one of the common arguments for consumption of large amounts of meat is the claim that this is what was primarily eaten in Paleolithic times and that we have not evolved substantively since then. Setting aside the weakness of this argument, let’s focus instead on the source of meat being consumed during this era. It was definitely wild game. So, to extrapolate the consumption of wild game that is very low in saturated fat to consuming large amounts of commercial beef that happens to be fed primarily grass and is slightly lower in saturated fat seems a bit disingenuous.

Here’s the thing. Unless you live in a rural area and plan to hunt and dress your kill yourself, it is very unlikely that you will be able to procure a regular source of wild game at a price that is acceptable to you.  One caveat, here. I’m working on the assumption that meat enthusiast would like to eat moderately large portions regularly if not every day. However, if what you plan to do instead is use wild game as a substitute for fish at a level of consumption similar to what is recommended for fish in the Mediterranean diet, there is a case to be made that it’s a reasonable substitution.  Low in saturated fat and equivalent in price to good to premium quality fish ($15-$30 per pound). One big caveat though. There are as yet no long-term studies to demonstrate such equivalency.

One last thought. Of course, group studies can never tell you what is exactly right for a single individual. It is very possible that certain individuals thrive with somewhat more animal fat and others who only thrive with none at all. Factors include one’s age, one’s genetics, and one’s health and performance goals. That being said, it seems unlikely to me that there will ever be evidence of large groups of centenarians who live on a strictly carnivore diet, but on the day that evidence is presented, I will accept it. 

That’s why I generally recommend what is sometimes called a Paleo-Mediterranean diet as a good jumping off point. From that low-carb, high fat, low animal product foundation, you can safely play around with the amounts and sources of macronutrients. If you closely track various wellness parameters while running these self-experiments, you will be able to determine the optimal diet for yourself over a period of several months to a year depending on where you were starting from.