|With a new focus on healthy eating, the timing couldnít be better for the arrival of game meats at the dinner table.
| Bison, ostrich and emu, to name just a few exotic meats, are showing up at supermarkets across the country.
Why the interest in these exotic meats? Certainly health and nutritional concerns are important factors, but a growing number of Americans are worried about the safety of beef.
Newspapers headlines about mad cow disease have made some consumers
think twice about choosing beef as a primary source of protein. By
switching to bison (or buffalo) meat, they are finding that they can
get the benefits of beef without the risk. There has never been a
reported case of mad cow disease in bison.
Bison is the leading contender among game meats when it comes to
the-most-likely-to-become-mainstream prize. It looks like beef
(though somewhat darker and redder because it is not marbled with fat
like beef) and tastes like beef, too. But thatís where the similarities end.
Take a 3.5-oz portion of cooked bison, for example. According to a University of North Dakota, study, it has 2.42 grams of fat (143 calories). Compare that to beef at 9.28
grams of fat (211 calories) or skinless chicken at 7.41 grams (190
calories), and the reason for bisonís popularity (to the tune
of one million pounds eaten each month) becomes clear.
While bison is leaner, itís also nutritionally richer. It has more
iron than other meats and less cholesterol, too, making it a good choice
for those with elevated cholesterol levels or heart problems. Because
itís higher in protein than beef, it satisfies your stomach with less.
Another bonus is that hormones and steroids are not used on bison. Commercial
feed is used in very small amounts. Bison are free to roam fields and
eat grass. The only drawback to bison is its availability; itís still
scarce in some areas of the United States, especially in the East. Itís also more
expensive than beef Ė approximately more per pound.
Also headed to stores and restaurants near you are ostrich and emu.
For low fat diets, they are excellent choices. A 3.5-ounce portion of
cooked ostrich (which has a veal-like flavor) has just two grams of
fat and 96 calories, which is less than beef, chicken, turkey or bison. There
are ostrich farms now all over the United States. Emu meat, which is said to taste like duck, stacks up nutritionally much like
Safari in the Kitchen
If youíre interested in trying something new and different in your
kitchen, take heed of this expert advice to ensure your foray into
game meat territory is a tasty one:
As we seek out new and healthier sources of protein, game meats will
play an increasing role in our diets. Dave Carter, executive
director of the National Bison Association in Colorado, explains: ďMore and more consumers are realizing that what they eat determines how
they feel and how long they live. They are discovering that meat
sources like bison fit the bill.Ē
- When you are cooking meats like bison and ostrich that are lower in fat, your cooking times and temperatures will be less than those used for beef.
- Do not overcook game meats. Less fat means that they
will dry out more quickly. Cook them to rare or medium-rare to preserve moisture.
- Because of the lower fat content, you may want to
stay away from tannin-rich wines. Choose berry-flavored red varieties
such as Pinot Noir, Zinfandel or California Cabernet.
- If the grocery stores and farmers markets in your
area donít carry game meats, consider mail order. There are a number of
companies that ship meat by express delivery across the country. Check
the Internet for suppliers.
- For your first taste of game meats, order an ostrich or bison burger at a restaurant to see if you enjoy it.
For more information, recipes and cooking tips, go to the National Bison
Association (www.bisoncentral.com), American Ostrich Association
(www.ostriches.org), and American Emu Association sites (www.aea-emu.org).