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:

Heroes

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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