12.18.2014

Real food/Paleo fan TV recommendation: Meat Eater

Since I began learning about the benefits of grassfed versus conventional meats, I've started to understand how the best meat sources could be even more than "grassfed"--wild. Products from grassfed or pastured animals are without a doubt higher quality than food from commercial animal feeding operation "conventional" sources, providing more Omega-3 fatty acids, more vitamins, and other benefits (see a few sources here, here, and here). But even responsibly raised animals like cows, hogs, and chicken are probably not the same quality as the animals our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate (if we're taking "Paleo" somewhat literally). I would love to eat mostly wild meats, freshly caught after they've been walking around in their natural habitat eating the diets meant for them. They say it's impossible to eat the actual diet of wild foods that humans in the Paleolithic era did, so isn't the most "Paleo" thing we can do to eat wild game and local produce?

One of the big mysteries in our culture is the perfect falseness of the American supermarket. Rows of bland uniform eggs, identical chicken legs, packaged, dyed bologna, pre-cooked vegetables... this monotony and easy access make us so disconnected from the sometimes painful, visceral, process than had to occur for us to find those prepackaged slices on the shelf. How disrespectful to this animal, to never recognize where it came from and the sacrifice it made to be my nutrition.

If part of why we've decided a Paleo diet is good is to be connected with our food and understand and respect it (that is, the quality, type, and quantity), having an intimate connection to the foods we might have eaten many years ago is the ultimate goal.

One step toward this connection to my food was visiting the herd at Kookoolan Farms where we have purchased beef and hog shares. We didn't get to see the specific cow we purchased, and didn't watch the killing or butchering process, but it was a good first step. However, these steps are nothing compared to what people have been doing forever, which is hunting and processing their own food.

The idea of hunting was totally foreign to me. I grew up never knowing any hunters and knowing nothing about hunting. I never realized how hunters might be living the close connection to their food sources that I would end up holding in such high regard. So much of the focus in popular hunting culture (magazines, TV shows, advertisements) is on getting the biggest buck with the biggest antlers to put on your wall as a trophy. This, by itself, has next to no appeal to me, and it never did, which is why I mostly wrote off hunting as a beneficial activity.

But then I found the show Meat Eater, a reality show on the Sportsman Channel that follows writer and host Steven Rinella. I was introduced to Steve's knowledge and methods, including fair chase hunting, eating every animal you kill, and not shying away from cuts and dishes that we don't often see in the typical American restaurant.

Steven Rinella is an avid outdoorsman, writer, and television host. He is the author of The Scavenger's Guide to Haute CuisineAmerican Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon, and ... Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter. Rinella's writing has also appeared in many publications, including Outside, Field and Stream, the New Yorker, Glamour, the New York Times, Men's Journal, Salon.com, O the Oprah Magazine, Bowhunter, and the annual anthologies Best American Travel Writing and Best Food Writing. In 2010, Rinella hosted The Wild Within on Travel Channel. Currently, he is the host of MeatEater, on Sportsman Channel. He was born in Twin Lake, Michigan.

I was blown away. Every episode I watched, I learned countless new things about being and eating in the wild. I admired the respect and understanding Steve had about the dozens of animals he hunts--and I was always impressed by his  cooking skills both over the fire and back at home. 

I loved seeing Steve take some first-time hunters (and some of my favorite podcasters) out on a hunt (they've since been out a few times). He's been hunting his whole life so his perspective is very different than mine, and it's cool to see other beginners out there. It made me start to feel like hunting might be something I could actually do.


I also introduced my wife to the show. She was vegan and vegetarian for 13 years before starting to eat Paleo about two years ago, so she had even more discomfort with the concept of hunting for many years. Yet she loves the show now as much as I do. Steve is respectful, knowledgeable, and smart about how he hunts and leads by example, and I think his message rings loud and clear. He shows that hunting is primarily about the experience of being in the wild, looking at and appreciating wildlife, and bringing home food to feed your family. It's a huge adventure, and a huge unknown, every time you step out.


So while I've come to think that hunting might be the ultimate way to be in touch with my food, be respectful to the animals I eat, and to achieve my personal best as a human, I'm still not sure how I'll find an opportunity to hunt. Now my wife is interested, too, but we still don't know many hunters. We're hoping to take the steps to learn about the tools and knowledge we'll need.

Bottom line: I highly recommend the show! Meat Eater, check it out.

You can also check out Steve's book, Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter and this cool post about it.

4 comments:

  1. this show looks really awesome! i need to check it out. i come from a family that hunts and have always found it to be a really personal way to know what you're eating and connect with where that food comes from. my fiance, ben, and i actually just went bird hunting in eastern oregon and are looking for more opportunities to do so! it's definitely a really worthwhile experience. i think that when you eat the meat you've caught it tastes 200x times different than anything store bought (obviously) - but it's a combo of the quality of the meat and the experience that went into catching it.

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  2. I'm among the most unlikely hunting enthusiasts but I love this show!! I love learning about hunting now!!

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  3. Really?!?! That is so cool, another thing we have in common!!! ;)

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  4. Sounds like an interesting show. I don't hunt, but have friends that make a big trip every year, and I do have to say that the meat they caught and cooked tasted amazing. I'll have to check out this show!

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