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Is "gamey" really such a bad thing?

I'm always a little annoyed when I read lines like "lamb was great; not at all gamey" or "yuck, the goat curry had a gamey taste" in restaurant reviews. Why has gamey become a pejorative term? I believe "gamey" is just something that some people like and some don't; like sourness, bitterness, or cilantro, and shouldn't be treated like an inherently negative attribute.

As someone who is fond of powerful and pungent flavors, gamey taste is something I actively seek out. Wouldn't people who don't like strong-tasting meat be better off just avoiding lamb, duck legs, mutton, etc. instead of eating it and hoping that it doesn't display too much of its intrinsic flavor? Obviously, if something is rotten or past its prime, that's a legitimate complaint, but I don't think gamey-ness necessarily has anything to do with rancidity and may actually be how things are supposed to taste.

Is it hypocritical for Chowhounders to bemoan the practice of breeding the flavor out of produce in favor of consistent appearance while also turning their noses up at meat that is properly handled but is just too flavorful for them?

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  1. jfood agrees. there are times that he is looking for a more "gamey" flavor and other times less. That's why jfood never orders veal parm in a resto, the quality is usually too gamey for jfood's taste, but he would order a veal chop milanese if he was looking for a more dense flavor.

    so it depends and jfood is glad they mention the depth of flavor in some of their meats so there is no surprise on first bite.

    13 Replies
    1. re: jfood

      not sure how veal could be considered "gamey" since it's raised in a pen and deprived of light and exercise...pretty bland stuff.

      1. re: whs

        Agree. The main reason I don't eat veal is because of how the animals are "raised". The second major reason -- and that certainly helps avoiding this type of meat -- is that I find it incredibly bland.

          1. re: EWSflash

            I have a couple of veal loin chops in the freezer - got them at the farmer's market, they're pasture-raised and had a nice (if short) life. Gotta make 'em soon and see what they taste like.....

          2. re: linguafood

            Rose veal is differently raised, tastes different and obviates the senseless slaughter of male calves for economic reasons. Gamey though? I doubt it,

            1. re: Adeplume

              Dairy calves have to be female, so the thousands of males born become veal. That is no more senseless than slaughtering lambs or young chickens.

              1. re: jayt90

                Yes jayt90 that was my point, though badly put I'll admit. The senseless slaughter to which I referred was the waste of good prospective veal by killing male calves at birth just because they're male.

                1. re: Adeplume

                  Sorry, I misunderstood. I know the Mennonite and Amish dairy farmers keep the little Holstein "bullies" for veal, but I don't know about the big dairy farms.

                  1. re: jayt90

                    Tasty stuff in my view. Here in France our local farmer divides all his calves by sex and the girls stay on his farm and the boys all go to his son's farm to be raised for veal. Unfortunately as far as I'm aware the specifically dairy farms don't necessarily have that luxury and the male calves are merely wasted as too expensive to feed. However I am wandering from the point. All I can say is I have never tasted veal with a gamey flavour nor have I ever found well hung beef taking on a gamey flavour. I suppose that doesn't mean it doesn't exist just that I have never tasted it in 60 odd years.

        1. re: jfood

          Could it be the cheese and not the veal that you’re adverse to? Sometimes the cheese, especially sheep milk based for me, like romano, leaves a strong aftertaste similar to the gamey aftertaste.

          1. re: jfood

            reply to whs and michele cindy,

            there are different raising pocesses associated with all foods, veal is no different. the veal you sometimes receive in a resto is different from the milk-fed veal you may buy in the store. what jfood has noticed is that the mild taste that he loves in veal at home is rarely found in the veal he orders in a resto. And wrt cheese, milanese is cheeseless, so that could not be the culprit.

            thanks for the input.

              1. re: Passadumkeg

                OK...it was very vealey...better. :-))

            1. I personally do not really enjoy too much of the gamey taste. For example, I just pan fried some lamb chops with some garlic. I have to eat it right when it's piping hot or else it's not worth it. It still has a distinctive lamb flavor but with just a tiny hint of the taste of traditional game meat. It's a very strong flavor, and if you leave cooked lamb sitting out, then after about 15-20 minutes, the gaminess starts to get too heavy for my liking.

              1. I used to hunt. And it was interesting how venison from different years would taste different depending on the diet the deer ate. Deer who feed on corn, who live near someone's farm taste different from deer who just eat in the woods. I like the flavors of various more exotic meats.

                7 Replies
                1. re: scuzzo

                  And isn't the surprise of the flavor part of the fun? I agree about the "exotic" flavors which I, righty or wrongly, read as more on the gamey side.

                  I personally perfer the northern deer that feed on poplar twigs, over the southernmore deer that graze in cornfields. We've got a young spike buck this year, and it will interesting to see how different it tastes versus the does we've had in years past. Still, they are northern-forage animals, so it should taste like the forest.

                  Curious, which do you like me when you say exotic - the woods-foragers or the corn-foragers?

                  1. re: cayjohan

                    Does? I thought only bucks were fair game. Maybe that has changed with the current population of deer, or perhaps it's where I live.

                    1. re: jayt90

                      Yep, does are fair game in our area, no special license. Huge deer population. I generally prefer the doe meat - second year is best -, as some of the older bucks can be even more gamey than I like! If you eschew a big trophy set of antlers, you can often get better meat.

                      1. re: cayjohan

                        The flavor issue with older bucks is a general tendency of uncastrated mature male mammals to have strongly flavored meat. Vienna Beef hot dogs made in Chicago contain a fair fraction of bull meat, which accounts for a good bit of their distinctive flavor. Bulls for slaughter were quoted as baloney bulls, reflecting the fact that the meat was used only in heavily spiced sausages.

                        Illinois hunting rules favor killing antlerless deer, but then much of the state has too many deer. The old rules allowing killing only bucks came because one buck can mate with multiple does so a substantial fraction of bucks can be killed with very little impact on deer population.

                        1. re: cayjohan

                          Same with elk. A cow elk usually has a milder flavor than a bull.

                          1. re: nvcook

                            Ditto moose. Guys going after big racks look for bulls, people filling their freezers go for the cows. There used to be a cow permit required in Alaska each season -don't know how it is now.

                        2. re: jayt90

                          Doe are most certainly hunted. I know in the PNW there's a chunk of season specifically for doe, you have to have a license, but then I'm pretty sure you have to have a license period.

                    2. Yes, I am picky about my lamb, but I love it cooked a certain way and I love how the meat is so tender and has a distinct flavor. I do use the term gamy in a negative connotation in that, lets say, if the meat is cooked at too high a temperature, it may taste overly strong and slightly off-putting to me, not necessarily to others. I think how someone judges whether something tastes gamy to them is totally subjective.
                      I personally don't use the term gamy in a positive sense. This does not, however, mean I dislike the defined, strong taste of a particular meat.
                      I guess it's just all to how you define gaminess. When I enjoy the strong and distinct flavors, I would describe it as exactly that; flavourful, wild, bold, pungent.. etc. But when I use the term gamy, it just means that the level of flavor is not to my preference.
                      I don't know if I really make sense here.

                      1. I think the only time I hear "gamey" used in a positive sense is when some people are describing grass fed/grass finished beef. I think that if you are raised completely on store bought meat, as I was, a gamey taste can throw you off. I remember the first time I tasted venison, I kind of liked it but it did have a gamey flavor that I didn't know how to deal with.

                        1. I'm with you - usually when I hear "gamey," the person means "I could taste actual meat." I like my meat a little gamey, would always prefer duck to chicken, for example, or ground venison to ground beef. So, yeah - bring on the gamey!

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: curiousbaker

                            I'm with curiousbaker. Unless the speaker is a veteran food writer/explorer with a good deal of serious meat-eating (preferably in foreign countries) under his/her belt, I tend to distrust the use of the word "gamey," especially among Americans. As far as I can tell, it is now synonymous with, simply, the actual taste of meat. Sure, some animals may have more of that elusive quality than others--goat more than lamb, say--but the threshold of "gaminess" has dropped disastrously low in popular tastes. My guess is that it began when we started packaging our meat in plastic and stopped hanging any kind of whole, unbutchered animals in the butcher shop. When we could no longer smell it, our taste tolerances and inclinations rapidly flattened out.

                            1. re: Barry Foy

                              Well put. The word has become almost worthless. (I have had--very rarely--real game that was "gamey," not a pleasant experience. Has to do, as I understand it, with hormones, age, and/or diet. Nothing in the supermarket comes remotely close.)

                              1. re: Aromatherapy

                                Agreed. I bought a pheasant at our supermarket, and it tasted like...chicken.

                                1. re: whs

                                  I have practically give up on finding a mature guinea fowl to eat in this country. Like all the other penned "wild" fowl for sale here, they're fed on corn and killed before they're potty-trained, all because Americans want even their "wild" meat to be soft and bland. Same with rabbit. The only domestic rabbit I've ever eaten that was as good as wild were REALLY free-range - they inhabited the fenced-in lawn of the Rabbit Creek Inn overlooking Turnagain Arm, outside of Anchorage, and provided the main fare on the menu. Tender souls could opt for tables without the view...

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    Out on the Amazon frontier (Acre and Rondonia) a lot of settlers have guinea hens that live free around the house.

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      They're really common out in the country in Tennessee, too...but just try to find one ready to cook! I remember one time coming around a corner on a country road, and right into a flock of guineas...and thinking, H'mmm, how hard would it be to just sorta open the door and grab me some on-the-hoof pintade...?

                              2. re: Barry Foy

                                I'm glad I saw this old thread that got revived. We bought some birria (goat stew) at a Latino market in SoCal. I commented to Bob that I loved it because it tasted like MEAT. I also said that I bet that there are plenty of people who wouldn't like it for the same reason. And would call it "gamey." More for us :)

                              3. re: curiousbaker

                                I have to say, I never hear "gamey" used in a positive sense.

                              4. I agree. Gamey is a taste that some people like and some people do not like. I prefer my food not to have a "gamey" taste. For me the gamey taste reminds me of the way a petting zoo smells. In my mouth it gamey food is overwhelmingly musky. I enjoy lamb, and duck, but not goat or venison, they're over the top for me. I can't even eat goat cheese, for me I might as well be eating goat poop. It's like those who can't tolerate broccoli. It must have something to do with your tongues receptors.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: michele cindy

                                  I'm so happy there's another 'hound out there who doesn't like goat cheese! I have tried and tried and tried again to like it but it does have a strong 'gamey' taste to me, even the milder chevre. No one seems to understand what I'm talking about when I say I dislike it (and it seems to appear everywhere at parties and restaurants). I like duck and lamb as well as other strong cheeses, I guess I'm just someone who doesn't enjoy a gamey aftertaste.

                                  1. re: ms. clicquot

                                    Glad to hear I am not alone as well! Even eating the size of a pinhead of goat sets me off. I love other "strong" tasting cheese as well.

                                    1. re: ms. clicquot

                                      1 more question... What about cilantro? For me it tastes soapy, although I can tolerate it in small amounts.

                                      1. re: michele cindy

                                        I'm the same way! I enjoy it in moderation in certain Thai dishes but I don't go out of my way to cook with it. I think I've maybe used it once or twice in recipes and the cilantro taste always seemed a bit overwhelming.

                                        1. re: ms. clicquot

                                          Interesting. My husband says I have the nose of a hound dog. How is your sense of smell? Also, if food is spoiling I can taste it where others see nothing wrong with the flavor. Wondering if this is all related. somehow.

                                    2. re: michele cindy

                                      I am the opposite but I enjoyed your post. I prefer traditional Romano to Parmesan, and I would definitely order venison, elk or Buffalo over supermarket beef. I am not a fan of duck, but it has nothing to do with the stronger flavors, as I don't like the extreme greasiness of waterfowl.

                                      Some of the best BBQ I ever had was goat, and I tend to prefer odoriferous whole milk cheeses and love Chev. I have not met a cruciferous vegetable that I didn't like, and I loved the durian fruit that I sampled this summer.

                                      I LOVE STRONG FLAVORS

                                      1. re: michele cindy

                                        Ah-ha! Someone here has actually put a descriptor to the term gamey! Musky...ok. Can't say I disagree or agree, but I can say that I have had LOTS of game meats, and though I didn't like all of them, most are pretty awesome! I'll never forger the year my dad got a reindeer for Christmas dinner...you can imagine the jokes he made, I'm sure. My landlord is a hunter, so I've actually had the chance to get to know venison a bit more intimately, and have only found an off-putting flavor in fattier pieces. Almost leathery, I'd say. Overall, I find game meats to be sweeter than commercial. If that's gamey, I vote we encourage it!

                                      2. gamey is as gamey does.

                                        Among the reasons that mutton is hard to find these days is that it is 'gamier' than lamb.

                                        Although I tolerate it pretty well (I have never thought of a duck as gamey and I have had a couple wild) love lamb and goat and venison, I understand why some people find it off-putting.

                                        I don't understand folks here saying "That's what meat tastes like."

                                        The OP says "don't think gamey-ness necessarily has anything to do with rancidity and may actually be how things are supposed to taste"

                                        Even this is not a real strong statement - it doesn't "necessarily" have anything to do with rancidity. No, the quality of gameyness does not necessarily, but its also does not exclude something to do with rancidity.

                                        It's a musky and funky quality wouldn't those who like it agree? if your steak was musky and funky, if your beef steak was on the "gamey" side, would you think it had turned, gone around the bend?

                                        I think that's why people don't like gaminess - it reminds them of spoiled meat.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: FrankJBN

                                          I've loved lamb and similar animals the more I eat it, although I really dislike the taste of Ostrich, it's metallic, IMO. My parents on the other hand don't like lamb or things that taste musky, and I can understand why: Sometimes it has the scent of a petting zoo (good analogy from some previous poster). What I really don't understand is why people who don't like it have to be accused of being "white bread" or having a limited palate.

                                          1. re: FrankJBN

                                            Yes Frank. Those of us who do like meats like mutton, goat, lamb, etc. like it for the funky, musky quality you describe. The trouble is, I think, that some people have a more sensitive palate: I mean certain tastes are more pronounced/stronger than others in some people. That's what can be off-putting to them.

                                            1. re: Gio

                                              Years ago my grandparents always had a flock of Mallards for eating over winter. If a few were eaten in the autumn, they had a slightly fishy scent which was from the insects they ate. Most were killed in December, after a few weeks on grain, and tasted like duck. But they were always a treat.

                                          2. Fully agree. I love goat, lamb, duck, venison, local range fed beef, wild boar, pheasant, and even rice fed field rats (in Burma). I feel like I'm eating wet paper towels when I eat beef in the US.

                                            1. When I stayed with a friend in rural England, the local farmers hunted all sorts of fowl and hung them on the fence to ripen for days. They really were close to rotten when they were finally eaten. I came to associate gamey-ness with meat that is spoiled. I tend to like strong flavors, but now when I get a whiff of raw chicken that has been sitting in the fridge too long the smell takes me back -- not in a good way. Does anyone know why the hunters hung up their dead birdies? The sight was pretty awful.

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: Glencora

                                                I think it is a remnant of days when there was no cold storage, and a pretty general ignorance of hygiene and freshness. So the hung flavour became the norm, and has lasted in the U.K. I don't know why they did not use more salt and smoke, but of course some did. In the 60's when I learned to cook from E. David's books, I made several pork roasts cured to taste like wild boar, from very old recipes. They were awful.The meat was rubbed with herbs and spices (juniper was used a lot) and chilled for a week. They had 'that smell' and I was never fond of game after that.

                                                1. re: jayt90

                                                  jay, what you say is very interesting given the historic perspective (especially with fowl, yet I know many people who won't eat a pheasant that hasn't been hung to develop deeper flavor), but I wonder: why, given hygiene and freshness enlightenment, do we still hang beef to dry age as a very desirable product? It's done under temp. control, to be sure, much like your pork roasts. Most beef afficionados would never call it gamey. Not trying be provocative, but why should beef be different? Okay, now I'll actually try to be provocative: is beef hung to dry age to taste more "gamey," as un-hung, it's just not as appealing?

                                                  Love this thread, but it's making me hungry.


                                                  1. re: cayjohan

                                                    Most beef, pork, and lamb is only hung long enough to drain the blood, then cut up and shipped in cryovac. The wet aging promotes enzymic tenderizing. Some beef is held for dry aging after grading, but the amount is small compared to the whole beef industry. It is watched over carefully, and there is air movement, but some surface bacteria grow while dry aging, and this has to be removed. The surface bacteria do not penetrate, and they give the meat a mild gamey smell, nothing like poultry past its prime. This type of beef should be more tender, and slightly denser with a more concentrated flavor. Anyway, dry hung beef is too pricey for me, at $20/lb and up.

                                                    1. re: jayt90

                                                      Jay, I'm not meaning to poke at you - understand that from the outset; but I'm really enjoying a conversation about hanging/aging meat.

                                                      I absolutely understand what you're saying about the wet-age/cryovac meats. I'm guessing you have, but if you haven't, read "The Niman Ranch Cookcook" for a wonderful treatise on this. (Has recipes too... :-) Still, the dry hanging has some merits - for birds as well. I'm not saying that we should hang birds for a few days in 70 degree weather, of course, as that would be silly. But hanging birds in 40 degree weather for a couple of days...well...IMHO, wow.

                                                      My dad spent most of the 1950's in Bavaria and did a lot of wild boar hunting. These were always hung for quite a time (I'm thinking of your roasts, which sound like I might like the recipe, if you'd like to share!); venison also hung. He has always rhapsodized about that meat. So, even in my youth, we had deer hanging around to age. Sometimes in the basement for a little extra, well, what would it be...."seasoning?" (Scares the bejeezus out of a teenage girl going down to do laundry!)

                                                      I'm curious about your aged bird experience (I can't get any anymore..not usually) and what you know about it. If birds are hung, pelts intact, surface bacteria are not a problem, no? Or am I living in another century? Enlighten?

                                                      BTW, I can't afford dry-aged beef anymore either. It's a remnant from my youth with my previously neighboring farmers. The same family still cut my venison, but it's not hung and aged. Oh well. Progress.

                                                      1. re: cayjohan

                                                        Hanging birds for two days should be fine. Wild birds and farmed ducks or geese are not as bad for surface growth or salmonella as chicken or turkey. Even turkeys seem to last longer than chickens before a smell occurs. I don't have any wild birds coming my way, but my grandfather would hang his mallards for two days after killing, and they were better than free range ducks we also had. Anyone with suitable outdoor acres should consider a small flock of mallards, or guinea hens if regulations allow it.

                                                        The recipes I used to prepare pork, beef or lamb roasts, usually shoulder, came from Elizabeth David,

                                                        French Country Cooking
                                                        French Provincial Cooking
                                                        Salt, Spices and Aromatics in the English Kitchen

                                                        I'll put an adaptation in Cooking later.

                                                        These books are still in print, check Amazon or Alibris.

                                                        1. re: jayt90

                                                          Jayt, I purchased French Cooking, as it has most of the foods that I grew up eating, but didn't get many of the recipes from my Grandmothers before they died. I have made slight changes to her recipes, but the book is much easier than a wooden box of the cards to keep track of.


                                                2. re: Glencora

                                                  Apparently, from what I have read, game tends to be tougher than other meat or poultry as the animals are wild and muscles are used more in the process of survival. Hanging will help tenderize the meat and develop the characteristic gamey flavor. This is caused by enzymic and bacterial action. The longer you hang the meat the stronger the flavour. In season, we can be driving down any road in Vermont and see deer, and or bear hanging from the eaves of cabins. To be honest, it's not a very pretty sight. IJS.

                                                3. I think there is a big difference between gamey flavor and the inherent flavor of some meats. The strength of the flavor of lamb, for instance, can vary with cut, age, season butchered e.g. But, that seems different from gaminess which i associate with wild meat. Oily ducks, like spoonbills, shot in the marsh when the water is low and they have been eating rotting plant matter or wild rabbits or old boar can all be gamey in a way that you not likely forget. The same goes for an old deer. I like a little gaminess, from time to time, and I love the flavor of lamb, but an overly gamey duck in your gumbo can be pretty unpleasant.

                                                  1. I have been watching this thread for awhile and no one has really said what I believe to be true. To answer your question, yes , gaminess is a bad thing , because any game can be made "un-gamy" (well, almost any game). The most important thing is to age the meat properly be4 butchering and freezing. I have hunted all my life and killed almost every american game there is , and can say that aging is the most important part of having good tasting meat. I also raised many different animals - and always aged my meat be4 I butchered it. That includes rabbits, waterfowl, lamb, goats,beef, pork (which doesnt need too much aging at all), chickens, turkeys , guinea hens, etc . Any animal killed while hunting has inherent gaminess , especially if it was killed while on the run or excited,; it's the adrenaline in the meat at that time that makes the gaminess u describe. There is a large difference between a deer shot while at rest and 1 shot while running, The age of the deer makes a differnce also - like in any meat - but aging an older animal, gets the gaminess out, while also tenderizoing the meat. There have been many times that I have disliked some game , especially wild duck, but many times , it was simply because the meat was not handled correctly.Yes, there are different flavors in all meats , but gaminess should not occur.A young deer tastes like young beef, there's very slight difference.But , kill a chicken thats 3 yrs old , cook it the next day , then kill another , age it properly for 2-3 days , and see the huge difference in flavor.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: dibob817

                                                      Someone just directed me to this thread.

                                                      I posted on hanging/aging meat:


                                                      Well-dry-aged prime beef is sublime. I would love to try a well-aged goose, pheasant, or duck. I am not talking 2-3 days, I am talking a week, or even a month. Heck hung on a fence in the rain in England 40 degrees for 4-6 weeks would be perfect. That temp inhibits most nasty bacteria and would break down the toughness and "gaminess" appropriately.

                                                    2. Personally, I much prefer "gamey" meats. I generally don't like chicken although I have had some that is prepared particularly well but I love wild game / upland game birds. Properly aged they are more tender and the flavor is improved but, I'll take the breast meat out of most of our take each year and cook it very simply. I only age, pluck and clean a few birds each season as a special treat since time is limited. The same goes for many meats. I prefer my meat to have a bit more flavor and texture than some that you might find in the super market.

                                                      There were some interesting comments about aging game in the exerpts from the article we used for our Thanksgiving recipes:


                                                      1. Gamey is a bad word: I propose we not use the word "gamey" or "gamy". The problem is inherent in its definition: (from Webster's Dictionary) "having the flavor of game; especially : having the flavor of game near tainting." Despite Webster's putting italics around "especially," I've found people using it both ways--tastes like game, and tainted meat. So, the only way to understand what they mean is through context clues, which some people omit, solely relying on gamey to describe this taste they're referring to. When we talk about food, especially food that tastes like wild game, we should do our readers, or listeners, a favor and not use "gamey" without qualifying it; otherwise, it confuses people.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: intrepidtech

                                                          Having used the word for years describing the kind of meat I like, I never realized there is a negative connotation with it.

                                                          So, for promotional purposes, one should describe the meat as "having a pleasant, gamey taste"? This reminds me of a common cheese description of "having a pleasant, nutty flavour". Personally I found that confusingly redundant but at least some light is shed on the reason why they do that.

                                                        2. Agree completely. Well said.

                                                          1. Gamey does apply to game. I've found a recent source for mutton and don't find it gamy, but "muttony".
                                                            In wild mammalian game, 2 things can affect a strong "gamy" flavor. If the animal was in flight and the adrenalin has kicked in, it will affect the flavor, strongly. How the animal is butchered after killing also affects flavor. If the carcass is not cooled down quickly, the flavor gets strong as well. In many mammals, there are glands in the thigh region that if not quickly removed, also strongly flavor the meat .
                                                            Hanging of game is still commonly done, in cool dry conditions, to help break down the tissue, of very lean, potentially tough meat.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                              I agree. "Gamey" is far too subjective of a term for most modern people to toss around. Too few urban dwellers have any experience with game animals.

                                                              It's generally been my personal experience that many foodies have never eaten anything wilder than a domesticated lamb, tapas from the tin, or a serving of mackerel nigiri from the sushi bar. I'm not implying that they wouldn't try game meats, it's just that game meats are not conveniently/easily purchased in the US.

                                                              So unless someone does their own hunting, or know someone else who does, they probably have little idea of what "gamey" actually tastes like.

                                                              BTW, my favorite game animals are either rabbits, turkeys, and occasionally a wild pig. I typically refuse to hunt any game that requires more people than myself to field dress, and then take back to the truck.

                                                              1. re: deet13

                                                                Northeast game figured heavily in my childhood diet and I agree that most people don't truly understand "gamey"

                                                                Growing up everyone's father (and brother, uncle, grandfather, neighbor, etc.) hunted deer. Venison was used the same as beef although mostly ground but sometimes as small roasts and steaks. Deer meat was never wasted.

                                                                I was fortunate to come from a family of experienced hunters and butchers and it wasn't until I was nearly 30 years old that I tasted truly gamey venison. It was passed on to us from a friend of the family and I simply could not eat it. The meat was not spoiled, it just had a very distinct and unpleasant (to me) flavor - gamey.

                                                                Rabbit, pheasant, wild turkey, goose, duck and squirrel all taste very different then the commercial available food in America. I can understand how someone who doesn't have years of wild game consumption under their belt would use the term "gamey" when describing any meat outside the grocery store/regular butcher offerings.

                                                                I will say I have had elk, moose and antelope that friends have brought back from hunter trips that I didn't need to take a second bite of but I am guessing that had to do with the reasons passaadumkeg mentioned.

                                                                Deer hanging in my grandfather's (unheated) farm shop was common sight. I have lots of childhood memories of the men cutting and processing the meat after deer season ended.

                                                                ETA - bear was considered by everyone to be "gamey" and was probably the only game that was not consumed. Once in a great while, someone would make a stew for a party and everyone would make a show of trying it but even the more hardcore "live off the land-er" considers it unedible.

                                                                1. re: cleobeach

                                                                  Ohh bear, that's pretty gamey meat. A few years ago I went hunting up in Montana, and brought down a black bear. I can say without any reservation that I was very pleased that almost all of the meat was happily taken off of my hands by an old Army buddy of mine in the local Crow Tribe.

                                                                  I took the rest of the meat (about 30 lbs), marinated it overnight in buttermilk (which helped tone down the gamey flavor), smoked it for a few hours, processed it into one pound kielbasa style sausage links, and passed them out to my more adventurous friends as part of holiday gift packages.

                                                                  Even after all that, the sausage was gamey as hell.

                                                                2. re: deet13

                                                                  " I typically refuse to hunt any game that requires more people than myself to field dress, and then take back to the truck."

                                                                  Get a mule and pack it out. Simple.

                                                              2. i'm guilty of saying "not too gamey" even though I like gamey. I think i've been taught that lots of people who don't like lamb don't like gamey. But i love gamey. I will never apologize for gamey again.

                                                                1. I have limited experience with meats. As all my life I've bought meat from the supermarket or mail ordered meat. But I have to say I love duck and goat. Which have been described as gamey by many in this thread. And I loved the wild boar bacon I got from D'artagnan. In fact reading this thread makes me want to make goat stew. So do I love gamey meat?

                                                                  1. As a fan of mutton, quail, elk, etc....I am in 100% agreement. I find that people who complain or comment on how a food is gamey aren't the kind of people I like to talk food with.

                                                                    1. I grew up on delicate-yet-flavorful lamb chops that weren't remotely gamy. When I first tasted young mutton, which was a specialty at San Francisco's Jack's restaurant for many years, I loved it--but considered a very different item from lamb chops.

                                                                      So, my response is: Lamb should not be gamy; mutton should.

                                                                      Gamy is a negative quality where it's unexpected or not the norm; game should be gamy. Goat can be a bit strong flavored, capretto--the youngster--is delicate.

                                                                      1. People have become accustomed to eating foods which are watered down pale versions of their original incarnation. I remember as a kid, broccoli rabe' was so bitter, that we’d have to blanch it twice… and I LOVED IT like that…now you could eat it raw and barely detect any of the bitterness. The wilder… shall I use the term “heirloom” varieties of fruits and vegetables will have those sharp/sour/bitter strong flavors, whereas the Super Market Variety does not. Hybridization of our food is equivalent to dumbing down, it’s done in part to produce large quantities of product but I can’t help but to think it’s also to appeal to the faintest of palettes. Bring on the FLAVOR! Start a revolution with wild dandelion, sour cherries, stinky cheeses, big bold red wines, truffles, aged beef and goat meat!

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: cgarner

                                                                          Sounds like a good dinner to me...

                                                                        2. I never really understood what "gamey" was. I've never really eaten anything truly wild, but I do enjoy lamb. I always associated gamey with something negative and I've had no negative reaction to any lamb that I've eaten in my life. People have only been able to describe gamey as "stinky", "funky", and "that smell of freshly killed animal", none of which help me at all. Someone has also told me that birds that taste gamey have that smell of old unwashed bath towels. Is gamey that livery metallic blood flavor that I associate with "meat" taste? Can someone do their best to describe it to me?

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: takadi

                                                                            It’s a hard thing to describe “gamey”
                                                                            For meat:
                                                                            Intensely flavored, dark, rich, reflective of the wild foods that game animals eat, mushroomy, not metallic and I don’t think livery, the flavor fills your nose. Think of a concentrated meatiness, which is why some describe aged beef to have a gamey flavor

                                                                            1. re: takadi

                                                                              I've never understood "gamey". Venison tastes different from wild rabbit, which tastes different from wild duck, which tastes different from pheasant, which is different from pigeon, etc, etc. On the same level, lamb tastes like lamb (usually a sweet flavoursome mild meat)

                                                                              I rather suspect that when folk use "gamey" in a negative way they use it as shorthand for "I didnt like the taste".

                                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                                Yea one person who probably overuses the word for that exact definition is Andrew Zimmern

                                                                            2. I grew up on a family farm (very little commercialized acreage unless leased to another farmer working the same crop on a larger farm), and my Dad hunted growing up. We raised beef cattle, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens and occasionally pigs and dairy calves (in exchange for fresh milk from the dairy - the raising calves part was a disaster).

                                                                              We had beef and mutton from our own animals - the other animals went to the auction where we knew there would be buyers who appreciated the meat more. Dad hunted duck and geese on the farm and would dress them on the back porch. Beef was cut and wrapped by a butcher and brought back home to the freezer. If there were more than a couple of sheep that needed dressing, the mobile butcher would come out to the farm. Early on, deer and venison was cut and wrapped on the dining room table, but as I got older was taken to the butcher to divvy up amongst the hunters.

                                                                              As a kid, it seemed that Dad was always gone on my birthday, which seemed to coincide with the opening of deer hunting season here in Oregon.

                                                                              That being said, I recognized the differences of the meats, but didn't dislike venison over beef, etc. The only thing I couldn't stand was mutton. The smell alone was enough to drive me out of the house.

                                                                              1. I don't like gamey flavors, but that doesn't mean its bad. I don't like foie gras either and people rave over it.

                                                                                I do like the descriptor "gamey" however, because that instantly gives me feedback on whether I'd like something or not.

                                                                                1. I wanted to revive this topic. For several years now I have been using the word "gamey" in completely positive ways of describing meat.

                                                                                  We're never going to get the word out of peoples thought and vocabulary, so the best thing to do is to completely flip the connotation that is linked to it and turn it into a positive attribute.

                                                                                  The whole foodie thing is doing a lot for the appreciation of stronger cuts of meat. If it isn't "musky" lamb then I don't want it personally. Same goes for "funky" beef and "swiney" pork. All good words in relation to the cuts of meat, at least in my mind. If I wanted mild, I'd go eat chicken, which I suppose has had the flavor bred out of it as well sadly. Tilapia would be the better animal to use in that statement.

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: rcbaughn

                                                                                    To me gamey means "flavor". If it tastes off, rancid, sour, etc, that's not the taste of game, that's just the taste of bad food

                                                                                    1. re: takadi

                                                                                      OP here, I heartily agree with the two of you!

                                                                                      I recently had some lamb in Paris that finally made me appreciate what that animal can really taste like. Much more potent and distinctive in flavor than the beef-with-a-different-name that we get in the US.

                                                                                      I wish there was more of that kind of lamb in this country.

                                                                                    2. re: rcbaughn

                                                                                      Exactly! When I buy lamb, I tell the butcher " I want in your face lamb aka perhaps what people call 'gamey'". If it doesn't fit that description then it really doesn't taste like lamb to me. It's the same with things like grass-fed beef and bison. If they describe it as "you won't know the difference it tastes the same" then I know I'll enjoy it but what's the point? If I want bison, I want to taste bison, not beef.