7 kinds of animals that you can eat with no factory farm involved

So you want to eat meat, eh? There's a dilemma.

Ever since the release of Michael Pollan's seminal book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma," more people all over the world have been trying to decide if their lives could use more locally harvested food — including meat.

The existing meat production pipeline is flawed. Pollan and many others — like Eric Schlosser (of "Fast Food Nation" fame) and the documentary "Samsara" — have showed us just how bad it really is. Some folks go vegan or vegetarian, but others have tried to figure out ways to get locally raised animals.


Image of Michael Pollan by Sage Ross/Wikimedia.

“Were the walls of our meat industry to become transparent, literally or even figuratively, we would not long continue to raise, kill, and eat animals the way we do."
— Michael Pollan, "The Omnivore's Dilemma"

Can you eat meat ethically?

What is there to do if you would prefer meat to be a source of protein in your diet but want to have it in an ethical and eco-friendly way?

The answer might be in your backyard. Literally.

If you live in an area that has access to wild game, you may want to consider hunting. Seriously! Many people have turned to personally hunting their meat, and the vast majority of those who are passionate about it harvest game in ways that are safe, clean, and quick.

Ask yourself: Is that more or less ethical than, for example, a cow grown while standing on piles of manure, force-fed antibiotics, and unable to turn around or even move? Or a chicken with its beak cut off, unable to move in its cage or do anything except eat and … well, you know. How about what happens when animals reach the "killing floor" where they're executed en masse and "disassembled" before they make it to the local "Mall*Wart" in your city?

If you do it yourself, it can get you closer to your food supply and in touch with its life cycle.

Even though I've hunted since I was a kid, "Omnivore's Dilemma" got me even more interested in putting wild game into my freezer and onto our table. Knowing a lot more about your food sources is key to understanding why it matters so much to your health and happiness. And, prepared right, wild game is absolutely delicious.

Also, I still thank every animal I take for giving food and sustenance to my family.

Replacing things like factory-farmed cows and chickens with wild game is possible.

You can also look into organic/grass-fed animals on local farms, but that can get pricey. We've done it to the tune of $900 for a half cow, and you must have a deep freeze on hand to store it.

But small-game hunting can be cost-effective and good exercise, and it's not a big lift when it comes to cleaning and cooking.

Some people use a bow and arrow, a small-caliber rifle like a .22, or even a simple single-shot shotgun available for $100. For that matter, there are many people who like to hunt with birds of prey — trained falcons, hawks, and more.

Whatever method you use, once you've got your license, it's time to get out there!

What are some good options to hunt?

Let's go through some varieties of game that can usually be found in open areas around the United States.

1. Rabbits

Cottontails, hares, and jackrabbits all provide a great meal when you harvest them humanely and ethically. Rabbit season starts in September or October in most parts of the country. The taste? A lot like chicken, but a little stronger flavor. You can really make it tasty with a good ol' hasenpfeffer recipe (or as Bugs Bunny would call it ... rabbit stew).


Thumper ... I mean, the cottontail rabbit. Image by Jon Sullivan/Wikimedia.

2. Squirrels

Bushy tail (fox) squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, and prairie dogs are all in the same scientific family. As opposed to hoofing it through the woods and grasslands for rabbits, squirrel hunting is more for people who like to sit for a while. The taste is also kinda like chicken, but a lot greasier. Think dark meat.

The common fox squirrel. Photo by Brandon Weber/Upworthy.

3. Upland birds

Pheasant, quail, grouse, Hungarian partridge, and other species are actively eating and preparing for the winter months late in the year, starting around September. Definitely a way to burn some calories because hunting them requires hikes through woods, grasslands, and farm fields, where you can see them flush, often with a great flourish of color.

As you might have guessed, the taste is very much like chicken!


The ring-necked pheasant. Image by USFWS Mountain-Prairie/Flickr.

Bonus: Here's a pheasant recipe I created years ago, but it'll work with pretty much any small game.

4. Waterfowl

Waterfowl include geese, ducks, and other birds that stay close to water. At 12 to 15 pounds per bird for an adult goose, they can easily feed a family. It's very much a dark meat; in fact, goose breasts look as dark as steaks before and after you cook them. The taste is very much like duck, rather than turkey. All are fabulous, on the grill or slow-cooked in the oven or pressure cooker.


"Honkers," as they're sometimes called. If you've ever been close to a flock, you know why. Image by Alan Wilson/Wikipedia.

5. Deer, elk, and other cervids

This is definitely deep-end-of-the-pool hunting — not small game. And it takes a deeper relationship with the local population to really make it ethical.

"The Three Kings." Image by Brandon Weber/Upworthy.

A word on "trophy" animals (i.e., those with a lot of antlers) versus those intended for food and culinary delights: Though the picture I took here is of bucks, I take the female variety ("does") too. There's a reason why.

If the herd gets out of balance from too many does, then bucks can die from food scarcity in the winter months. Read: They starve.

I've been regaled with many a tale of winters being so harsh in parts of the country that deer eat tree bark and pine needles to survive. That's not good, and they suffer, so it's far better to harvest enough of them each year so that the herd is strong.

"Hiya, human!" Photo of bull elk in Rocky Mountain National Park by Brandon Weber/Upworthy.

In the mountain states, elk and other cervids (ruminant mammals that are members of the Cervidae family) are also frequently harvested. These will supply hundreds of pounds of venison at a time.

I'm a bow hunter myself, and it takes tons of patience, practice, skill, and the ability to sit quietly for hours on end. My 7-year-old wants to go deer hunting in a few years, but I've already warned him that he cannot talk for hours at a time — a feat I do not think it's humanly possible for him to accomplish.

The taste is like beef, with much less fat. Cooking venison is a skill unto itself, and you frequently will have to cut the cooking time in half versus beef, or it will be very dry. They're much like grass-fed beef in that regard. The varying types of cervids produce subtle taste differences. I am fond of whitetail deer and elk, but some folks love caribou and antelope, too.

Bonus: If you want to go full-on mountain person, you can learn how to make a coat or blanket from the hides, as well as other fancy things from other parts. Double bonus: If you have dogs, venison bones are great for them to chew on. (Just be sure to do it safely!)

6. Wild turkey

No, not THAT Wild Turkey...

This is another "sit and wait" creature to hunt, and they have extremely acute eyesight and hearing, so they're not easy. But taste one — even if you've had "free-range" turkey before — and you might just be hooked.

"Hi Tom. Have you met ... Tom?" Photo by Brandon Weber/Upworthy.

7. Wild boar/pig

I've not yet had the experience of hunting these, but (SPOILER ALERT!) it is the critter that Pollan ends up harvesting at the end of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," along with local mushrooms and vegetables. In some parts of the country — especially the South — they are frequently harvested year-round. The taste is definitely pork, with older animals having a "musky" flavor.


"Oink? Not quite, Bub." Image of wild boars near Kennedy Space Center by NASA/Wikimedia.

Bonus!

For the pescatarians out there, catching and cooking your own fish can be magical. You only need access to waterways, ponds, or lakes, and a simple cane pole with a hook and night crawler will do. The kids will love it, and cooking fresh catfish or trout over a campfire is a great experience.

The species "Cerveza Metallica," with the author's buddy Dave. Photo by Brandon Weber/Upworthy.

There are, of course, tons of other critters in pockets of the country that can also be harvested as well, like alligators, goats, crabs, lobsters, bears, and more.

Hey, it beats store-bought, right? Check with local ethical hunters to see what might be available to you!

What if the whole idea of hunting game yourself is still not for you? That's fair.

Here's an idea: Why not trade with someone for locally sourced meat?

If you don't want to go through with hunting and taking your own animals, you could arrange a trade with someone you know. "Hey, Jane, I'll prepare the bread from locally raised grain and roast some locally-grown vegetables if you can harvest the venison steaks. Deal?"

Or even get together with friends and family who hunt and make it a feast!

Bon appétit!

Also, for a little taste of what "The Omnivore's Dilemma" is all about, check this video out:

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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