In Time for the Holidays, Hunters and Anglers Give Back Through Game Meat Donations
American Dietetic Association Applauds Programs that Fight Food Insecurity;
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Food banks spend more than $250 million annually, and with the cost of meats on the rise, many food banks and food shelves struggle to get high-quality protein foods in their programs. But game meat donation programs show how hunters, anglers and a community of local partners are getting lean meats and fish onto the plates of the hungry, according to the American Dietetic Association.
"It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that systematic and sustained action is needed to achieve food and nutrition security for all in the United States. And households receiving food from emergency food providers, like pantries, kitchens and shelters, appear to be particularly vulnerable to food insecurity," says registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association Spokesperson Ruth Frechman. "These donation programs help those less fortunate get the nutrients they need to lead healthy lives. The protein from these game meats is a vital nutrient for the body."
According to ADA's position paper "Food Insecurity in the United States," "About 4.1 percent of U.S. households (4.8 million), representing 8.8 million adults and 4.5 million children, obtained food from pantries at least once in 2008."
As part of these donations, hunters take field-dressed deer, elk, pheasant or fish to a licensed meat processor and donate all or a portion of their meat to a program. The processor prepares and freezes the meats into packages, which are delivered to community agencies, kitchens and food shelves.
While game meats like fish, venison and elk are lean protein choices that are sound, nutritious options for food banks (see chart below), there are food safety considerations. State health departments have guidelines for meat processors, food banks and feeding programs, and donation programs provide guidance on proper handling of the carcass and timelines for bringing it to a processor.
But home food safety practices play as important a role when it comes to preventing foodborne illness.
"Proper handling, storage and cooking of these game meats is crucial when keeping the health of the consumers top of mind," Frechman says. "While taking steps to ensure the meats are not contaminated with lead or diseases is an important first step, making sure all of the parties involved handle and store the meat properly, as well as cook it to the proper temperatures, is vital to ensuring those who eat the meats will not become sick from food poisoning."
According to Frechman, everyone who handles game meat donations should keep a few important things in mind:
- Store game meats three to five days and fish one to two days refrigerated under 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Frozen meat and fish should be kept below 0 degrees Fahrenheit for two to 12 months, depending on the cut and type.
- When preparing, always keep raw meats and fish separate from ready-to-eat foods. This will help prevent cross-contamination.
- Cook all game meats to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, game birds to 165 degrees and all fish to at least 145 degrees. Using a food thermometer is the only way to ensure the safety of meat and fish.
More valuable food safety tips are available at www.HomeFoodSafety.org.
CHART: Game Meat Nutrients (100 g, or ~3.5 ounces), USDA National Nutrient Database
Elk: raw ground
Venison: raw ground
Venison: broiled loin steak
Pheasant: raw breast
Rabbit: raw composite cuts
Trout: raw wild
Trans fat/Sat.Fat (gr)