Fair Game

Real men love animals…because most animals are filled with succulent, grill-able cuts of meat. Albertan men are usually raised on a combination of beef, chicken and/or fish, but what of the other beasts chopped up and reduced to faceless chow? Does their convenient slaughter not warrant at least a sampling of their tasty tissues? Non-North American cultures have been enjoying the flesh of nearly everything on two to four legs for centuries. It’s time to exercise your food chain birthright and try some mysterious meat.

Bison from Valta Bison
We’ll start local with the meats time hath nearly forgotten. The mighty bison roamed the plains in herds so large, they took days to pass by First Nations villages (or so go the legends). The American plains bison and the wood bison were nearly hunted to extinction during the 19th and 20th centuries. Recently, some of the damage has been undone and now only the wood bison remains on the endangered species list in Canada. Which means you shouldn’t feel too bad about sampling this tasty meat. Most people describe bison meat (the free-range commercially farmed stuff, not the shot-from-a-steam-train or herded off a cliff wild stuff) as a leaner, sweeter beef that should be cooked medium-rare — any more and the meat will toughen up due to its gamey gamey texture. 703 23 Ave. S.E., Calgary Farmer’s Market, Sweetgrass Market.

Elk from Gour-Mart
Elk meat has less fat, calories, and cholesterol than chicken and, thanks to the abundance of free-range farms in Alberta, it is no longer exclusively available to 18th Century barons and outlaw hunters. Elk are native to North America and Eastern Asia, but have been introduced to several South American countries, such as Argentina, as well as Australia and New Zealand. The meat of this massive creature (the elk is much larger than its cousins, the white and red tail deer) has been described as rich and juicy, as good free-range elk is only grass or alfalfa-fed and not given steroids, chemicals or antibiotics. Try an elk steak or ground elk, which can be used for making exceptional burger patties. Bowness Shopping Centre, 77 St. and Bowness Rd. N.W.

Wild Boar from Hog Wild Specialties
Originally found in Northern Africa and most of Eurasia, the wild boar (or simply the boar) has been artificially introduced to many parts of North America. Considering the boar is a wild pig, you’d expect its meat to taste taste like pork. However, boar meat (or more correctly, “pure” boar meat — meaning the source animal has not been crossed with domesticated or feral pigs) is much leaner than pork, has a close-grained texture, and is a deeper red in colour. Dozens of cultures use boar for customary dishes and celebrations, but the British, French and Italians have some delicious, traditional boar recipes, such as Sir Digby’s roasted boar, boar pâté, and cinghiale. P.O. Box 1209, Mayerthorpe, Alta.

Guinea Fowl from Rocky Mountain Game Meats
Why decide between chicken and turkey when there are so many other flightless birds to devour? Guinea fowl, once only available in Africa, is now widely farmed in Canada and the U.S. The partridge-like bird is said to taste like chicken, but has a moister, deeper, and slightly earthy flavour. Try it instead of chicken when making Coq au Vin. #115, 1935, 32 Ave. N.E.

Alligator from North Sea Fish Market
Gators are native to the U.S. and China (though, only a handful of wild Chinese alligators are believed to remain — a few dozen at most in the Yangtze River). Thanks to recent conservation efforts, American alligators and 15 other crocodilian species have been returned to sustainable population levels, and the commercial farming of these living fossils has become common practice in the U.S. The gator’s meat doesn’t taste like chicken (as any Louisianan pulp character would have you believe), but more like a cross between pork and frog legs. No one knows how to cook gator tail meat like the Cajuns, so trying to replicate one of their sacred recipes is a good call. #300 10816 Macleod Trail S.; 7418 Crowfoot Rd. N.W.

Image courtesy of larryhalff.

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