Venison brings forest to table in Michigan

Venison contributes to a sustainable local food system.

Local food proponents often use the expression of getting one’s “hands in the soil” in order to foster understanding of where their food comes from. Many Michigan residents grow produce in home and community gardens to fulfil this connection, and some raise backyard chickens or other animals for food. This all requires a significant commitment of labor and land. For those looking for a different way to connect with their food, hunting wild game is a sustainable, local source of meat that doesn’t require one to own land or engage in a year-round effort to care for animals.

Gourmet Gone Wild is a program in Michigan that aims to connect local food enthusiasts, typically young, urban professionals, to hunting and fishing as a source of sustainable local food. Watch this video to learn more about Gourmet Gone Wild. Similar programs are offered across the United States and include the Bull Moose Hunting Society in San Francisco and the Deer Hunting for Locavores class, featured in this video from the New York Times.

Beyond providing a healthy local food source, deer hunting contributes to Michigan’s financial and environmental health. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources more than 650,000 deer hunters in Michigan generate more than $2.3 billion annually to Michigan’s economy. Hunting is also an important part of Michigan’s natural resource management. Early conservation efforts in the United States were spearheaded by hunters, perhaps most famously former president Theodore Roosevelt. The ideas of wildlife as a public resource and using management to sustain wildlife populations remain the basis of North American wildlife management practices today. Michigan’s deer hunting regulations are based in research on deer ecology and the interactions between deer and human activities. The Department of Natural Resources is responsible for developing a science-based Deer Management Plan that also takes into consideration the perspectives of citizens across the state. This article from the Michigan Department of Natural resources explains the different ways in which hunting contributes to wildlife conservation.

Michigan State University Extension’s Community Food Systems Work Team is working to grow the local food system in Michigan, which includes wild game protein sources. To connect with a local food system educator in your area, visit the website or call 1-888-678-3464.

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