Store-Bought Meat: Should We Hunters Change Our Ways?

Store-Bought Meat: Should We Hunters Change Our Ways?

How many times have we heard an anti-hunter exclaim that we hunters don’t need to hunt for meat because we can buy it in the grocery store? Is that a valid statement?

First, we need to look at what we hunt and what the store offers. The anti-hunters know nothing about all the wonders of hunting. In their minds, we hunters are cold blooded killers, taking great joy in shooting an animal, or, incredibly, in allowing it to suffer. They think that hunting can be eliminated, and we hunters can buy meat wrapped in cellophane. Interestingly, that meat in the store was once a live animal, raised for its edible flesh and then killed in a slaughterhouse. Never mind that fact. They don’t care. What matters to them is that we’re allowed to kill animals. That’s bothersome to them. But, in the case of situations where certain animals need to be eliminated—such as nuisance lions and bears that kill livestock or threaten people—it’s okay for a government hunter, hired sharpshooter or game warden to take care of the problem, as long as a hunter doesn’t.

All of us thrill to the sight, smells and sounds of a new morning being born. Can you buy that in a store? How about all the challenges, both physical and mental, that are required to outsmart the quarry, and the deep satisfaction of being successful and bringing home organic meat. Can that be bought in a store? What about the camaraderie and bonding between family members and friends? That happens in a big way in the hunting woods, marshes and fields.

Anti-hunters evidently believe all meat is equal, but beef, pork and lamb don’t taste like venison. Chicken and turkey don’t taste like quail, pheasants or waterfowl. Wild animals and birds have their own unique tastes.

But let’s suppose we wanted to buy deer and elk steaks in a store. It can be done. You’d be paying up to $30 a pound, depending on the cut. These animals are raised on government-inspected farms under strict guidelines. Most stores don’t carry deer and elk meat so it must be sought out in specialty markets.

Some animal meats are virtually impossible to buy commercially, such as moose, pronghorn antelope, black bear and caribou, among others. Yet many of us are fortunate enough to hunt those species, and we enjoy them at the dinner table for their unique flavor. The same holds true for upland game, small game and waterfowl. You aren’t going to find a woodcock, chukar or squirrel wrapped in cellophane.

Anti-hunters also do not take into account one’s personal budget considerations. As reported by, many Alaskans subsistence hunt for survival. Others, for example, depend on big-game animals such as moose for a large part of their annual meat supply. I live in Wyoming and know plenty of folks who rely on getting a bull or cow elk each year, not only because they enjoy it, but because it indeed helps on the budget. Across the country, many hunters count on bringing home one or two deer.

But then anti-hunters argue that by the time you add up all the expenses to hunt an elk or deer, it would be cheaper to buy beef from the store. In some cases that’s true. But the hunter who goes afield locally and processes his or her own harvested animals often saves on the grocery bill considerably. And, of course, a big plus is knowing where the animal came from, as well as the knowledge that it’s organic. Those of us who process our own game have the ability to make our own sausage, burger and jerky and customize the cuts and roasts according to our likes. There’s a great deal of pleasure in producing meat that we really enjoy. You cannot buy that in a store.

Those who claim that it’s expensive to hunt have no right to delve into our private lives. It’s our business—no one else’s. We can spend our money how we choose, whether it’s on a cruise, a ski vacation, a winter trip to sunny climates or a hunting trip across the country. Two of my favorite wild meats are Sitka blacktail deer and pre-rut caribou. Both require a journey to Alaska, Canada or the far North. That meat is unquestionably expensive when you add up all the costs. But it’s a pure delight to sit down at the dinner table and savor the unique, delicious taste that has plenty of wonderful memories that go along with it. It’s impossible to duplicate those culinary treasures with store-bought meat.

In the past, we could say that anti-hunters were hypocrites because they themselves ate meat. But in recent years that scenario has changed for some antis, particularly among those who are activists and members of well-organized anti-hunting extremist groups and identify as vegetarians or vegans. Their food preferences have helped change farming practices to the point where millions of acres of land, once flourishing with assorted crops and brushy fields that provided habitat diversity to all forms of wildlife, now amount to endless acres of soybeans and other “pure” crops. Gone are the songbirds and other species—including endangered species—when wetlands are drained and natural forage is eliminated to produce more tofu and other vegetarian foods.

A T-bone or sirloin beef steak wrapped in cellophane with a price tag on it appears to be benign and harmless to those who live in a sheltered bubble. When we buy that piece of meat, we don’t think about how it got there, but we know how it got there. We accept it, as we accept the venison roast on our dinner table.

And as they say, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks. Those who profess to love animals may not buy fur coats, but many will wear leather shoes. What’s the difference? And those who refuse to wear leather shoes but wear plastic, rubber and other materials are woefully ignorant that it takes around 50 years for leather to decompose, and 1,000 years for its synthetic counterpart to slowly release its toxins into the environment.

I’m not anti-beef. I enjoy a rib-eye steak in a restaurant as much as anyone. On occasion, I may augment the wild game in my freezer with chicken or pork. But telling me that I should change my lifestyle and give up hunting because meat is available in a store is absurd. To those of us who hunt, that argument falls on deaf ears. As well it should.

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About the Author: Jim Zumbo is best known as a Western big-game hunter, though he has hunted deer in all 50 states and is an avid turkey, upland game and waterfowl hunter. With two degrees in forestry and wildlife, he has had more than 2,000 articles published in outdoor magazines, written 23 hunting books and conducted numerous hunting seminars nationwide, including for NRA Hunter Services. In addition to serving as a full-time writer/editor for Outdoor Life magazine for 30 years, most of them as hunting editor, he was host of the popular outdoor TV show “Jim Zumbo Outdoors.” A Benefactor member of the NRA, Zumbo has won numerous awards for his writing and remains active with conservation groups, including serving three terms on the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s board of directors. For information on his biography, “Zumbo,” released in November 2016, click here.