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Venison is the culinary name for meat from the family Cervidae. Deer meat, whether hunted or farmed, is termed venison.

Etymology

The word derives from the Latin vēnor (to hunt or pursue). This term entered English via Norman in the 11th century following the Norman invasion of England, and the establishing of Royal Forests.

Definition

Venison can describe meat of any mammal killed by hunting. It was originally applied to any animal from the families Cervidae (deer), Leporidae (hares), and Suidae (wild pigs), and certain species of the genus Capra (goats and antelopes), such as elk, red deer, fallow deer, roe deer, moose, reindeer/caribou, pronghorn, brown hare, arctic hare, blue hare, wild boar, and ibex, but its usage is now almost entirely restricted to the flesh of various species of deer.

Food

Venison Escalope
Venison may be eaten as steaks, tournedos, roasts, sausages, jerky and minced meat. It has a flavor reminiscent of beef but is richer and can have a gamey note. Venison tends to have a finer texture and is leaner than comparable cuts of beef. However, like beef, leaner cuts can be tougher as well. Venison cooked beyond medium rare will take on a heavy gamey flavor.

Organ meats of deer are sometimes eaten, but would not be called venison; rather, they are called humble, as in the phrase "humble pie." Venison is lower in calories, cholesterol and fat than most cuts of beef, pork, or lamb.

Raw Venison Escalope
Venison has enjoyed a rise in popularity in recent years, owing to the meat's lower fat content. Venison can often be obtained at lesser cost than beef by hunting (in some areas a doe license can cost as little as a few dollars), many families use it as a one to one substitute for beef especially in the USmarker mid-south, Midwest, Mississippi Valley and Appalachia. In many areas this increased demand has led to a rise in the number of deer farms. What was once considered a meat for unsophisticated rural dwellers has become as exotic as ostrich meat to urbanites. Venison jerky can be purchased in some grocery stores, ordered online, and is served on some airlines. Venison burgers are typically so lean as to require the addition of fat in the form of bacon, olive oil or cheese, or blending with beef, to achieve parity with hamburger cooking time, texture, and taste. Some deer breeders have expressed an interest in breeding for a fatter animal that displays more marbling in the meat.

Since it is unknown whether chronic wasting disease, a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy among deer (similar to mad cow disease), can pass from deer to humans through the consumption of venison, there have been some fears of contamination of the food supply. Recently, several known cases of the disease have occurred in deer farms throughout the United Statesmarker and European farms in Scandinavia may also have had several cases.

New Zealand is the main source of farm-raised venison and is recognised as a country free from CWD.

Farmers now have had tests developed especially for the particular species they raise to obtain better results than those used on cattle.

Venison can be kosher as deer are ruminate and possess completely split hooves, two of the requirements for land animals, and indeed is available kosher in places such as Israelmarker, New Yorkmarker, and Chicagomarker. However, kosher venison isn't available in the UKmarker. In the early 20th century, there would be a once-a-year supply of kosher venison in the UK, when a group of Shochets would travel to the Rothschild family's estate and catch and slaughter some deer in the appropriate manner on the estate. This has not, however, been done for many years.

Venison is widely available in European supermarkets through the traditional hunting season, (October to December). The main cuts available to European consumers are derived from the saddle and the hind leg. Diced venison is also readily available in frozen form in most supermarket freezer bins. Most of this venison comes from New Zealand.

In North America venison is less available at retail due to the requirement that the animal is first inspected by USDA inspectors. There are very few abattoirs which process deer in North America, and most of this venison is destined for restaurants. Most venison sold through retail in the USA will come from New Zealand. It is available through some high end speciality grocers and some chains which focus on more 'natural' meats.

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