Anyone for Black Bear Burgers?
- Dave Feldman
I went to the Waterfront Ale House last night, looked at the blackboard for specials, and found the game burger of the day was "Black Bear."
I've managed to live my all-too-long life without ever eating bear, so I ordered it. It actually wasn't as gamy as the waiter led me to expect, sort of a cross between lamb and ostrich in taste, rather dry and lean. I ordered it medium-rare, but it was overcooked, and this might have contributed to my "blah" reaction. Anyone had good bear? Is medium-rare bear better than medium-well bear?
And for that matter, do other bears taste much different from black bears?
Bear is game, a carnivore at the top of the food chain. As such, it is highly likely to carry trichinosis. I'd always eat my bear well done, if I were you.
There was an incident a few years back where a hunter who shot a cougar turned it into jerky rather than waste the meat. He and ten of his buddies went to the hospital. They won one of those bogus bad-judgement science awards for it, too.
I don't remember the part about why they shot the cougar. Maybe it was predating on their flocks (just a guess) but they considered it meat that should not be wasted.
Trichinosis is a parasite that infects the muscles (including the heart). It causes flu-like symptoms, I believe in proportion to the quantity of meat ingested and how infected it was. After the active phase passes, the parasites form cysts in the muscles and remain there until the host is eaten.
Trichinosis used to be a major problem in pork, back when raw swill was commonly fed to pigs, but that's pretty much been wiped out. I understand that freezing to 0 degrees for an extended period of time, or cooking the meat to well done will kill the parasites.
Trichinosis is commonly found in wild game, according to one study, in excess of 50%!. ASSUME IT IS THERE!
Predators are a risk unless they are well done.
Farm-raised meat may be OK, though.
Ironmom, you managed to get me interested in trichinosis because we eat so much game in our house. I've always thought of game meat as being very clean because we take such good care of the meat between shooting and freezing. We examine the animal for signs of parasites as we butcher and we get rid of it if we see evidence of disease.
According to the Northwest Territories Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development, trichinosis occurs in the following animals: bears, wolves, foxes, wolverine, lynx, walruses, seals and ground squirrels. It can be spotted during butchering by examination of the tongue and jaw muscles, along with the diaphram.
The only way to make the meat of these animals completely safe is to cook to an internal temperature of 150 - 170 F. Freezing may work in pork but it's not a sure thing in game animals. Microwaving may not work because of uneven heating; smoking, drying or salting the meat may not kill this parasite, either.
What I'm learning here is to stick with the flesh of vegetarian animals, such as deer, antelope and game birds. Oh, the occasional squirrel might go into some brunswick stew, but I won't be in a rush to get it off the heat.
Thanks for bringing this subject to my attention.
re: Greg Spence
I've eaten hundreds of pounds of deer, elk, antelope, & game birds over the years, and so have a dozen or so good friends of mine here in MT, 99% of the time very, very rare, and we're still alive and kicking though perhaps not as evolved as the anti-hunters.
It's so beautifully fitting that one can catch the dread Trichinosis from eating critters that frankly aren't meant to be shot.
[Later that same day]
"Honey, the zoo was selling King Penguins today for just $13.50 a pound, I figured we could try them for dinner tomorrow with that imported panda you like so much."
"Sounds great Dave, put them in the freezer next to that great horned owl I shot on the way home from work."
"Okay, then later let's sit down with the kids, read Darwin, and congratulate ourselves for being so highly evolved."
re: Winnie the Pooh
Black bear are not an endangered specie. The animals you name are, at least, threatened. Bad analogy. I wonder if you resort to this type of argument when you realize there's no logical merit to your thoughts.
If you, Pooh, are a vegetarian then bravo for you.
As for me, I see nothing wrong with eating legally harvested game. It's healthier and cleaner than feedlot meat and it provides variety to the diet. It also can be very tasty. Harvesting this meat can help control animal populations in the absence of predators, especially when habitat is encroached on by humans seeking a few more square feet of living space.
And make no mistake, Pooh, a large carnivore (most bears) would love to make a meal of you, in spite of any professional courtesies you might expect.
A friend of the family prepared an assortment of game for us once, bear included. For me it was the lowpoint of the meal. While it was very flavorful (gamey) the meat had an unpleasant oiliness to it that was overwhelming.
and it was very chewy. Like gum. meat gum.
on the plus side, I can say that I've eaten bear, and the dove breasts were wonderful (as was the backstrap venison).
I just reread your post... it's interesting your bear burger was dry and lean... that's as far from what I had as you could get.
re: Ben Fisher
A few years ago some friends and I ate at a Slow Food restaurant in west central Slovenia, which specialized in local game. We ate bear pate and bear prsut (prosciutto). The pate was bearable but the prsut was terribly oily and heavy also. I couldn't manage it.
We also had deer prsut and deer carpaccio. I had a hard time with those also, but didn't want to insult the cook, who was presenting us such exotic local specialities. I ate as much as I could; then quickly had one of the friends finish it off.
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