and why people should consider adding it to their diet
Elk meat is an exciting potential addition to any diet, as it has a variety of nutritional benefits and a uniquely wild flavor. It’s leaner than beef and offers as much protein, and its mild, gamey taste pairs well with many recipe ingredients. Beyond cooking elk steaks or burgers, elk can be used in a variety of dishes such as stews, stir-fries and elk jerky, or in burger patties mixed with other grounded meats. Here, we’ll explore the benefits and flavor of elk meat and how to prepare it.
Consumers today are increasingly aware of the important role that nutrition plays in overall health. Fortunately, elk meat is an excellent source of protein, providing almost 23 grams of protein per ounce. It also contains a significant amount of iron, vitamin B-12 and zinc, which boosts immunity. And elk is a low-fat form of red meat, in comparison to beef, pork or lamb -- elk contains only 2.5 grams of fat per serving and is lower in sodium than another red meat.
Rich in Omega-3s
It’s hard to find omega-3 fatty acids in the modern diet, especially since the majority of processed foods contain omega-6 fatty acids. Elk meat provides a balanced source of omega-3s and -6s, which helps reduce inflammation and keeps your body functioning optimally.
Lean and Flavorful
Elk meat is one of the leanest forms of red meat available, with less than 15 percent fat. In comparison to other red meats, elk has more protein and less fat and calories, which makes it a desirable choice for health-conscious consumers.
The flavor of elk meat is described as mild and gamey, with a sweetness similar to beef. Its mild flavor means that it works with almost any flavor profile you can think of. Its mildness also means you don’t have to mask the flavor with strong spices.
Preparing Elk Meat
When preparing elk, the most important thing to consider is the cut of meat - this is what will determine how the meat tastes and feels. Different cuts can be used to create a variety of dishes, so it’s important to be aware of what kind of dish you want to make and which cut of meat will best suit it. For example, steaks or medallions work best on the grill, while chuck and roast are great for slow-cooking dishes like stews and pot roasts.
And don’t forget, elk is delicious when cooked all the way through, or rare - cook elk to no more than medium-rare to preserve the delicious flavor.
When cooking elk, keep in mind that it may take some time for the meat to reach the desired temperature. Elk is a very lean meat, so it can dry out quickly if it’s not cooked properly. To avoid dryness, consider searing the elk before cooking it in the oven. The searing will create a crispy crust that seals in the juices and ensures the finished product is tender and juicy.
In addition to steaks, medallions and roasts, you can also use elk for ground meat dishes like burgers, casseroles and chili. To make a lean and enjoyable burger, you can mix elk with beef or pork, or use it alone. And don’t forget about elk jerky, which is an excellent snack option, particularly when you’re on the go.
Elk meat is an excellent alternative to other red meats like beef, pork and lamb. It’s high in protein and low in fat and calories, and can easily be swapped into a variety of dishes for a more modern, health-conscious meal. Furthermore, it’s chock-full of essential vitamins and minerals, not to mention the fact that it’s a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. With its mild flavor and ability to pair easily with a variety of ingredients, elk meat is a delicious source of nutrition that health-conscious eaters should certainly consider adding to their diets.
An Overview of the Process of How Elk Meat Travels From the Woods to the Dinner Plate
The arrival of elk meat on our dinner plates is often taken for granted and yet it is a fascinating journey that begins in the wilds of nature before culminating in the kitchens of restaurants and homes alike. From an ethical, environmental, and nutritional perspective, elk meat is gaining greater attention, curiosity, and respect. For example, elk meat is an excellent source of protein, often providing up to 91.2% lean fat-free protein content (1). The elk’s appearance on our dinner plates is nothing short of a journey of innovation, audacious adaptation of the current market changes and delivery of the highest standards of quality.
To understand the complexity of the elk’s journey to the dinner plate, one must first understand the processes involved in creating elk meat. Elks are hunted according to the state’s regulations, depending on the region of where it is found. In North America, most of states that carry elk hunting regulations require hunters to complete a series of educational classes, licensing tests and field tests in order to be eligible to hunt (2). To ensure a safe and sustainable industry, most states also impose either-sex and bull-only regulations, with an established limit of the number of elk that can be harvested in each season (3).
Once the hunt is successful and a healthy elk is harvested, the animal is brought back to the base camp or landed at a butcher shop. Doing so entails using the correct transport, storage, and preparation methods. This stage plays a major role in the taste of the meat, as improper handling of the game could negatively affect its quality.
The first step in transporting the elk is to properly cool the meat. This can be achieved through immersion in a large cooler with small to medium-sized pieces of ice. The next step is to hang the animal in an area that is out of direct sunlight and is well ventilated. This allows the heat of the animal to disperse within a cold environment. Additionally, the skinning and field dressing of the elk should also begin immediately in order to reduce the risk of contamination. In particular, skinning or gutting the animal can help minimize the temperature caused by the meat being exposed to air, as well as prevent bacterial contamination.
After successfully transporting and cooling the animal, the elk carcass is transported to a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) inspected butcher shop. At the butcher shop, the animal is inspected for quality, freshness and general health concerns in accordance with department regulations. After passing the inspection, the butcher then begins the process of meat processing.
During the processing stage, the elk is typically separated into cuts which include both the primary and secondary cuts. The primary cuts consist of the basic eight cuts and are further segmented into smaller cuts of steaks, roasts, etc. The secondary cuts are commonly referred to as ‘trim’, and are used to make sausages, ground meats, and jerky.
The butcher then labels and packages the meat with clear information regarding the type of meat, origin and weight before sending it to the food retailer who orders it. Typically, the retailer provides the final deboning and portioning of the meat, followed by packaging and labeling. This is when the meat is ready to be sold and distributed to the public.
It is also important to note that enhanced elk meat is also available at retail stores. This is elk meat that has been injected with a solution of phosphates, salts, buffers and flavorants (4). This added process increases the water-holding capacity and shelf-life of the product, as well as improves its texture, taste, and juiciness.
Now that the elk meat has gone full circle from the process of harvesting and preparing, one must examine how it arrives to the consumer’s table. Quality elk meat can typically be purchased in supermarkets, butcher shops, specialty shops, or online marketplaces. For those interested in purchasing elk meat, the initial step is to research and find a reliable source. The label on elk meat should provide basic information about the product, including the type of elk (whether it is bull, cow, calf) and age. Sources that typically use sustainable and humane practices are usually the best. Besides, it is also wise to ask questions and learn about how the elk is handled and processed, from the game itself to the butchering and transportation.
The final stage is, of course, preparation. As elk meat is usually much leaner than beef, the main challenge lies in keeping the meat tender and moist during the cooking process (5). So, to ensure juicy and flavorful results, the use of low-medium heat, avoiding extremely high temperatures and adding unprocessed fats to the cooking process, like butter or oil, is recommended. Elk being cooked over a grill is also a great way to keep the juiciness while adding excellent flavor to the meat.
To conclude, elk meat has a long and remarkable journey before arriving to our dinner tables. From its harvesting and processing, to its transportation and preparation, there are many steps in ensuring quality and environmental sustainability — something that mustn’t be taken for granted. Being mindful of such a process pays off in an intense satisfaction of the final dish, be it in the form of a steak, a burger or a pot roast, in the end, elk meat promises a nutritious and memorable meal.
1. McLane, B. (2017, September 08). Buying & Preparing Elk Meat. Retrieved April 09, 2021, from https://www.elkamerica.com/elk-meat/buying-preparing-elk-meat/
2. Miller, L. (2018, June 18). Learning How to Hunt Elk. Retrieved April 09, 2021, from https://www.elkamerica.com/learning-how-to-hunt-elk/
3. How to Hunt Elk in Wyoming. (2020). Retrieved April 09, 2021, from https://www.travelwyoming.com/story/How-to-Hunt-Elk-in-Wyoming/1446
4. Lehman, T. (2020, June 30). The Incredible Journey of Elk Meat (From the Rockies). Retrieved April 09, 2021, from https://forwild.org/columns/elk-meat/
5. Coates, C. (2019, November 04). Elk Meat Cooking Tips. Retrieved April 09, 2021, from http://www.ak-elks.org/2019/11/elk-meat-cooking-tips/
|Vitamin B9||0.009 mg|
Daily Value 1.3 g
Daily Value 0.018 g
Daily Value 0.4 g
Daily Value 1.25 g
Daily Value 4.7 g
Daily Value 2.3 g
Daily Value 0.011 g
Daily Value 0.9 mg
Daily Value 0.0023 g
Daily Value 0.055 mg
|Aspartic Acid||2.962 grams|
|Glutamic Acid||4.804 grams|
|Total Sugars||0.131141 grams||
|Myristic acid (14:0)||0.05 grams||
|Palmitic acid (16:0)||0.46 grams||
|Stearic acid (18:0)||0.19 grams||
|Total Saturated fatty acids:||0.7 g|
|Oleic acid (18:1)||0.3 grams||
|Palmitoleic acid (16:1)||0.17 grams||
|Total Monounsaturated fatty acids:||0.47 g|
|Linolenic acid (18:3)||0.06 grams||
|Linoleic acid (18:2)||0.23 grams||
|Total Polyunsaturated fatty acids:||0.29 g|
|Total Sterols:||0.07 g|