Wednesday, April 30, 2008

News and Views on Meat

A friend recently gave us some antelope tenderloin, shot with a bow in Wyoming last fall. I grilled it last night, along with some venison sausage that my wife added to her catch-all pasta and feta dish. A Meat-lovers Tuesday.

Having never grilled this particular critter, I kept it simple: cut to small steaks, let sit overnight in olive oil, pinch salt, ground pepper and red pepper flakes. I grilled on low for about 20 minutes, turning every 5 and basting frequently with clarified butter and a little Mr. Stubbs. Result? Tender enough to eat with a fork (although we ate most of it with our hands) and delicious. Now I know why they have to run so fast.

This morning our reader Arthur Wilderson forwarded two links of interest, here and here. The first begins a discussion of "meatless meat," the Soylent Green concoction some posit as a substitute for animal protein. Evidently PETA is offering $1 million to the first mad scientist who invents the stuff.

The second is a discussion thread from a hunters' group who wonder if there's anything they wouldn't kill? Shades of our question about eating dogs, below. However, read a few comments--some are quite unusual. Hard to imagine what sort of hunters' group this might be?

"Some animals I would kill in a pinch for food, but there are a few different species that I simply will not kill at all. Primarily, rabbits, chipmunks and skunks. For one, I am not fond of eating scavengers, none of them taste good IMO and I really have a soft spot for all 3..."

Rabbits? My daughters share your soft spot for them, but both agree with me they're delish!

And these folks (some of them "senior members" of the hunting group) seem somewhat conflicted.

"Me being quite squeamish when dealing with the blood and guts part of hunting, I stick to varmints...."

"I don't like the taste of any game save it be fish. Yes, I know that someone has a recipe that would make me change my mind but I've tried most of them and just don't like it. I used to hunt, elk, deer, pheasant, duck, dove and most any game that Utah has to offer. I found that I usually had to find someone to give my kill to as I didn't want to eat it. This typically wasn't a problem there is usually someone you are hunting with that will take the game. I guess for lack of a better description I had a streak of morality hit me..."

"I'm not really a fan of hunting ducks because they mate for life. Just seems weird. Not against other people doing it by any means, just not my thing. Don't really like bird hunting at all, come to think about it..."

Huh! Sounds like there might be a larger market for meatless meat than I thought!


mdmnm said...

My limited experience with antelope has been much like yours- well cared for it is similar to, but more mild than venison and very good. Once they go down, antelope seem to turn really fast; they start slipping hair almost right away. Generous friend!

Funny how many hunters don't particularly like game. I put it down to dislike of novelty, poor cooking techniques, and poor meat care. Many states have donation programs where hunters can give their processed deer and hogs to various charities that can use the meat. They seem quite successful and are, I suppose, about the best possible solution to the situation.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Man, I don't understand how people can eat non-game meat - the stuff you get at the store just has no flavor at all. And how can anyone not eat what they kill? Why would you take a life if you weren't going to make good use of it.

And that "ducks mate for life" thing is deceptive. 1) Ducks actually cheat on each other once in a while, and 2)if you kill one member of a mated pair, the other one goes off and pairs up again.

Steve Bodio said...

I am with Mike on antelope, and Norcal Cazadora on eating what you kill.

SCAVENGERS? I suppose skunks can be, though who ever said to eat skunks? If anything is more vegetarian than rabbits I have yet to see it.

Squeamish so he kills stuff and just leaves it?

The duck thing reminds me of Roy Chapman Andrews, who justified killing whales (for scientific research) by saying they were promiscuous. I don't think Judeo- Christian morality is supposed to apply to other species (;-)) In any case male mallards are polygamous force- maters!

All silly. Eat what you kill or else don't kill. I feel old, or at least out- of- touch, when I read things like this.

Hates game but he hunts?

Mark Churchill said...

I reached reflexively for the "Comment" button, but I see that Steve has already made my points:

1) The idea that rabbits are scavengers (or less than excellent eating) is bizarre.

2) A species' mating system (assuming it breeds rapidly enough to sustain some hunting pressure) has nothing to do with its game status.

3) Shooting and leaving "varmints" isn't hunting, it's wanton waste, even if legally sanctioned.

I work for an outfit that sells, among other things, ammunition; I struggle mightily just to be civil to so-called "hunters" ordering ammo for mass prairie-dog shoots and the like.

If, as Steve suggests, we're "out of touch" then I fear for the future of field sports and wildlife management.

Matt Mullenix said...

"Me being quite squeamish when dealing with the blood and guts part of hunting, I stick to varmints...."

This one was illuminating to me. I'm reminded of Mark Duda's (CEO, Responsive Managament) typology of hunters, something like: Nature hunters, Subsistence hunters and Dominion hunters. Not sure where "varmint" hunters fit in---They seem to me more interested in balistics and distance than dominion, but maybe that's too generous. At any rate, "sticking to varmints" to avoid "the blood and guts part" of hunting certainly sounds like a wish to keep the killing at a safe distance. ...Not that we all don't give in to the same impulse buying eating supermarket meat.

"I found that I usually had to find someone to give my kill to as I didn't want to eat it...I guess for lack of a better description I had a streak of morality hit me."

Sounds like the morality streak hit him a little too late.

mdmnm said...

I'd guess that varmints= dominion, if I recall that typology correctly.

What do you all think of "varmint shooting" in terms of prairie dog or ground squirrel control, especially as compared to poison or the like?

Andrew Campbell said...

Matt: my limited experience with antelope was in buuz, steamed Mongolian dumplings, with just a little onion and some salt. Holy mackerel, tasty stuff!

As for that streak of morality: I think it had left some time previously.

But Mike does ask an interesting question about whether culling and hunting can be treated differently? Culling certainly seems more purposeful than target practice.


Matt Mullenix said...

I'm a'gin it. But I'm not a rancher; for all I know it's essential to their business. There is a place for necessary killing to protect an economy.

As a sporting prospect, it doesn't appeal to me. But I don't hunt with a firearm. The techno/balistic aspect is lost on me, and I gather that's a strong part of the appeal.

Big picture, I wouldn't want to kill for target pratice. However much that motivation explains varmint hunting, I'm not interested.

Matt Mullenix said...

I do agree it's a very interesting question: whether culling and hunting can be treated differently.

I think they must be treated as different activities. I think that's essential. Pest control is a job, a necessary one in many aspects, and worthwhile if probably generally unpleasant.

Hunting (to me) is much more than a job(!!) It is more than recreation. Considering my habit of eating game and feeding it to my animals (who help catch it), hunting is for me on the spectrum of eating and breathing. It is part of my being alive and a big part of how I understand life at large. What I know of hunting informs every other activity in my life; it's an example and a reminder of the fact that death is inevitable and necessary and of a piece with life.

There's no underestimating the influence that concept has on my child rearing and my marriage and my work.

Anonymous said...

It's all about what people value. Some value numbers, some the indefinable experience. I'll plead guilty to both.

But my true meausre is in what gets put on the table.

One of my best friends in falconry has never eaten what his hawks have killed. The idea of eating something not wrapped in plastic actually scares him.

I do believe that there will always be people willing to overcome the apparent disconnect for many in our culture with killing living things to live.

I just read an interesting article in the NYT that I hope will spark something in the new urban farmer-types. It's all about value.

An Unlikely Way to Save a Species: Serve It for Dinner

steve armstrong

mdmnm said...

I wouldn't call culling or varmint shooting "hunting" either. I think the fundamental mindset is different. I've been in South Texas taking management doe whitetails and, while it isn't work by any means, it also isn't the same activity as trying to find a big (and much more wary) buck.

I can see the appeal of the challenge from the shooting. Good riflery is difficult, particularly if the targets are small, moving, and at varying unmarked distances. Consequently, the chore of pest control might be made into sport, much like the necessity of rat control led to folks like D. Brian Plummer in England, who criticizes those who shoot rats with air rifles as unsporting and lacking care for their quarry, compared to the quick certain death of a terrier's jaws.

I think it is an interesting question- does it devalue hunting to engage in shooting prairie dogs or groundhogs or the like, without eating them, it the animals are dispatched humanely and would otherwise be reduced via poison or trapping? I haven't shot varmints, but I have dead coyotes in my past (bounty on them on certain ranches in Tx) and I'm not sure how I'd feel about an invitation. That's why I was curious as to Q-readers' takes on the situation.

Steve Armstrong- there is a bit of discussion of that NY Times article over at Bob del Grosso's "A Hunger Artist"-

Steve Bodio said...

Re Mike's question: I think it is, like so many things, a continuum. I certainly know dedicated, "naturalist", coyote hunters who don't eat their quarry (;-), though most keep the hide. (I once coursed them and have friends who still do.) John Barsness, one of the best pro hunting writers I know, shoots ground squirrels-- he used to save them for my Gos in Montana. Skill is important too, but respect is even more so. You can eat cull deer-- most (not all) don't eat rodents, though some Indians I know love prairie dogs.

(I do think that species is sometimes killed as a pest when its populations are far too low. Perceptions change, and maybe should.)

Know, respect, use all you can-- and don't be quick to dismiss other serious hunters. You really CAN tell. I'd rather see a serious coyote hunter than a Purdey- toting bird hunter on a put- and- take "game farm."

Moro Rogers said...

I would not eat crow.

Matt Mullenix said...

Moro I eat it all the time.

Phillip Grayson said...

I was, I suppose, a varmint hunter at a young age. I went out then with my grandfather, for whom it was a job (an enjoyable job, I think) with the Animal Control Department.
I'd agree that it's probably less than hunting most of the time, if only because something being culled like that is by definition overly plentiful, and not especially hard to find.
There was a degree of marksmanship to it that I especially liked, as a kid, and though I didn't eat any of the prairie dogs I shot, I think I did get some similar sense of life and death, the earth and world as it is and being a part of that, though that was certainly because of my grandpa, his own connection with the whole country we went through and his approach to it, the way he gave it all to me, helped me struggle at understanding it and know that it can't be understood all the way, much more so than the act itself.
That said, if all I did was shoot prairie dogs, I don't think I'd join a hunting club, nor can I imagine hunting game and then just giving it away.
Connected, I think, to the eating dog post below, there is a real and intense communion between a killer and the thing they kill, something heightened by taking the energy to live on from another thing that used to live. Stepping away from that commitment, half-waying it, it seems more like a failure of morals in the face of what morality viscerally requires.
But that seems unduly harsh a judgment to heft on someone known secondhand in shorthand, so no more.
Just my two cents

Matt Mullenix said...

Phillip and Steve this is a bit of the crow I mentioned above. I didn't mean to be dismissive about the pleasure of pest control (Ditto the pleasure of good marksmanship)---any job can be a good job. I just don't think of it as hunting.

Now, rat hunting a'la Plummer certainly fits my every description, and yet he never wrote about eating rats... In the case of my own rat hunting (with the hawks and dogs) they all go into the freezer for the hawk's summer chow.

Phillip Grayson said...

Please don't go eating crow on my behalf. I completely agree that this culling was nothing at all like hunting. It had its various appeals, but, at least in my experience, it was a far cry from hunting, and I can easily understand how it can look wholly bad, especially if looked at through a filter of what hunting is/ought be. It's surely not that.
Like you said, it's really just a practicality, not all that much different from braining cows, but surely viscerally more satisfying, in the way it's fun to play Whack-a-Mole.

Anonymous said...

Hi All

One man's vermin is another's luxury meat !- I beleive some Asian societies eat Rat & Dog , which we , in the main , in the West , find either repulsive ,or regard as uncaring at the least , towards our pets which share our lives so closely .

One of the "boundary " meats for Uk is Horsemeat , yet so much a delicacy in Belgiun & Northern France - so near yet so far away in cultural terms .

Only this week one of our more serious "pest species "(imported from US!) the grey squirrel, is being promoted as the new "Free Range Game " by a country butcher, with a price tag of $6 US a carcass- there was even a positive comment from a top line chef , who was no doubt looking for yet another
"different " foodstuff!
This would be a "normal dish " in US , of course.

A far cry from the 50 cents US a tail some of us used to get from the Uk squirrel eradication programme years ago!

Anyway , the world continues to turn - so far!


Peculiar said...

Horsemeat is interesting as a "boundary meat." It seems almost comparable to mycophilia vs. mycophobia as a cultural touchstone. In pagan Iceland, it was pretty commonly eaten, but the Norse missionaries largely put a stop to the practice. Horse eating held out in parts of the north, however. In one of the sagas (can't remember just where) some serious trouble gets started with the insult, "Didn't I see you picking mare's ass out of your teeth last night?" Them's fightin' words! I believe I've read that hippophagy remains a cultural divide in Iceland to this day.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peculiar

I suppose us Brits have a similar relationship with our horses and ponies,treating them as co - existent sentient beings,with, above all,names - far too close to consider eating !


Steve Bodio said...

Even some horse- eating societies draw lines (as we all do-- that is what the post is about.) Kazakhs decide early what horses will be eaten and neither name nor ride them-- they are just stock, like goats.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve


- So how do we categorise which essential, ( form , genetics etc ) or accidental ( naming , riding ? ) attributes, lead to the distinctions we make about individual examples of the same animals we decide to eat, or not ?
- Is this a moral judgement ?



Matt Mullenix said...

Johnny this may be neither here nor there but I have a strong sense that people are better at thinking of animals (and other people for that matter) as individuals than as species or populations.

I've known men who kept and loved individual cats and shot all others on their farm. Same with dogs. It would be easy to suspect that once you've crossed the threshold of "personhood" with an animal (or a person!), you are less likely to kill them. Warfare and genocide are often explained in this way, as examples of refusing to give personhood to others.

On the other hand, the vast majority of murders are of people known well by their attacker. And examples are plentiful on farms where children name and play with animals they eventually butcher and eat.

Killing and eating are, in people, behaviors and motivations likely as distinct from each other as they are in other predators. However we make these distinctions, it's likely complex and highly subjective.

I have no conclusions for you. Just more questions. :-)

Neutrino Cannon said...

I am reminded of a dinner that I attended with my mother, paying a visit to an old grade school friend of hers.

Among other dishes there was a stroganoff that tasted too distinctly un-marbled and flavorful to be store-bought beef. I asked if it was elk, and our hosts froze.

"Yes, is that OK?"

And of course it was OK, and we continued eating. Our hosts explained that prior, a number of their guests had objected to eating game meats, so they simply (ahem) failed to mention to their guests exactly what it was they were eating.

In particular, they mentioned a mother and daughter who had come to sup with them. Before the dinner, they spoke with the mother about that dinner's recipe and mentioned that it was in fact pheasant, not chicken. This the mother was fine with, although aparently overwhelmed by the novelty of it. Since the daughter would decidedly not be amused by the idea of eating game meat as opposed to chicken, it was decided that a judicious failure to mention exactly what the meat in question was, and failing that, lying, would be in order.

Things went smoothly until in a moment of (bibulous) exposition near the end, the mother exclaimed that the dinner was so good that you would never guess it to be pheasant. We are told that the daughter first reacted with a look of shock, recalling the moment in The Rocky Horror Picture Show when Doctor Frank N Furter draws back the tablecloth to reveal to the guests that they are eating Eddie. We are told, further, that the daughter, after this brief moment of cinematic reverie, looked her mother in the eye and declared

"I don't respect you for this!"

-R. A. Wilderson

mdmnm said...

R.A. Wilderson- Great story! I've sorta kinda failed to mention to origin of meat a couple of times. Then again, my most frequent dinner guests get all enthusiastic when they hear that elk is on the menu. That's probably why they're my most frequent guests.

There's a discussion of a prairie dog hunt here: