Relate to Your Plate
The older I get, the more I’m learning about how to put more intelligent and thoughtful meat choices on my dinner plate.
The topic of meat, it’s quality and where it comes from has become very top of mind with so many people today. Everyone has an opinion and a different food philosophy. When you spend any amount of time thinking about where your meat comes from, you start to ask yourself some obvious questions like “How are the animals I’m eating raised and fed? How are they treated during the course of their life? And how could it all be better?”
There is an evolution happening. Change is underway. People are becoming more educated about what they are ingesting into their bodies and the effects food has on their overall health. People are open to a new philosophy for themselves in regards to food and in particular, the meat they are eating. The supermarket box store option is being called out and if people do purchase there, the quality of meat and the animal’s life is being questioned. If I'm being honest, it's something I never used to think much about... but I'm evolving.
I’m an avid bow hunter. And as such, I have a deep found appreciation for the animal’s life and how it’s harvested. I don’t take the action of ending an animal’s life lightly. I feel a deep reverence for the individual animal taken, for the species it belongs to and the animal kingdom it comes from. I try to understand the landscape it comes out of and the way I as a human fit into it. I feel an appreciation for the ecology and the opportunity to participate in it as a hunter. I’m learning to have a holistic point of view on it. What I always keep in mind is the fact that I am providing good quality protein for my family.
When it comes to protein, I believe that wild game is one of the best choices for your body. It’s clean, lean, free-range meat. And when prepared properly, it’s undeniably delicious. Because of this, I want to inspire people to consider hunting. I want to make them think and ask themselves; “Why don’t I try hunting for my own food?” When you get to sit down and share a plate with a friend or family member, someone who has shared in the experience of harvesting an animal, it is a food experience that you just cannot buy. It has no price tag. It’s a food experience most people only wish they could achieve. But it can only be achieved by making that decision to do it. I understand it’s not easy. Ultimately doing some hard things will be required. Killing, gutting, transporting, butchering and then preparing. Concepts that people don’t usually relate with their plate anymore in this modern world.
People who are professed ‘foodies’ think they know food,… until they have the opportunity to participate in ‘all of it.’ And by ‘all of it’ I mean engaging in an ecosystem, trying to understand a species and it’s habits, being the person to let that arrow fly and being responsible for ending an animal’s life. Then field dressing that animal. Turning it from a freshly killed warm carcass into something that is ready to be put on a plate and consumed. That whole process is completely foreign to people who have never had the opportunity to do it before. I was fortunate to have a father who was a hunter to mentor me growing up. That is not the case for most urbanites today. It is a very unique and different experience if it’s your first time. It leaves people thinking, wow, I thought I knew about meat until…
When an animal loses it’s life at the hands of a new hunter, thats the moment where things shift. Initially it looks very much like a beautiful majestic animal just lying there motionless and it can be emotionally overwhelming to know you just ended it’s life. Then the process of field dressing starts to unfold and it can look very gruesome to a newbie. I remember the first time I watched my father disassemble the moose I shot during my first hunting trip with him. I found it so gross and very disturbing. But now I don’t think twice about it. It’s work I know that just needs to be done and I take pride now in doing it myself. For a new hunter, field dressing can be a completely bewildering experience and it can take two or three animals until they feel comfortable in doing it themselves. I’ve mentored several new hunters and noticed it can be very uncomfortable during the gutting and butchering process for them. But with some practise, a realization happens when they actually learn what to do with it and prepare it for consumption. It then starts to look like familiar food.
In my lifetime, I’ve seen such decline in opportunity for the modern hunter. In Alberta, Canada, what used to be an annual general tag for a bull moose or mule deer buck can now take 5 to 7 years to get a special draw tag. Urbanization and natural resource exploration are taking a toll on our wildlife. I fear my grandchildren will never have the hunting opportunities I had as a young man because I can see the direction things are going. People don’t care because they don’t know. Thats why I advocate hunting. No other interest group contributes to wildlife conservation as much as hunters do. Once people become hunters, they start to care. For the species and for the eco systems they live in. If more people really start to care about the species they are hunting and the places they live, then the future of these wild animals and their habitat might look more positive. I’m optimistic but there has to be a whole lot of ‘give a shit’ in order for the practise of hunting to continue for generations. Once that happens then positive change will happen.
I encourage anyone who has never tried hunting for their meat to seriously consider it. Hunting gives you an opportunity to have a more holistic view on where your food comes from. It humbles a person and there’s a growth that comes with that. You will learn a lot about yourself out in the woods and you learn where you stand in life’s grand perspective. Overtime, you will find it’s about garnering a deep appreciation for the animal that ends up as food on your plate.
One final thought by Anthony Bourdain (may he rest in peace) - "... I'm not saying that sitting down with people and sharing a plate is the answer to world peace. Not by a long shot. But it can't hurt."