Bear Meat — It's What's For Dinner
Posted: February 20, 2013
Bear meat has a bad reputation, according to Jaime Sajecki, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Black Bear Project Leader.
“I’ve heard of some ways you can prepare it that is not very good, but then they are other ways that people rave that they just absolutely love it.”
One of the reasons for the variation is the meat’s fat content.
Joe Cloud, owner of True & Essential Meats in Harrisonburg, says bear has a “very high fat content with a slightly different quality than other meats. Where deer meat is extremely lean, bear meat is extremely high in fat with a unique fat composition.”
Cloud himself has sampled bear meat that has been prepared in a variety of ways, including roasted or barbecued.
“When you eat bear meat, it coats your mouth and stays there for a while — so you better like it.”
Sajecki has been working with bears for 12 years, and encourages those who harvest them to use the meat.
A survey conducted in Virginia asked those who have killed the animal what they did with it. Of those surveyed, 76 percent of the respondents said they ate it, 42 percent mounted the animal, 26 percent donated the meat, 31 percent tanned the hide and 26 percent preserved the skull.
David Steger, President of the Virginia Bear Hunters Association, says a lot of bear meat is wasted because people aren’t educated about how to take care of it.
“It’s got to be good when it goes in the pot, or no amount of barbecue sauce will help,” says Steger, who hunts annually with hounds beginning each December.
He explains the importance of immediately taking care of the meat after the kill: The animal has to be skinned, quartered and field dressed to release the internal body heat that will accelerate spoiling. Bears also have heavy coats that need to be removed quickly to allow the animal to cool.
“A lot of hunters, after a kill, will want to show off the bear, or take it to be weighed with the insides still intact. This will cause the meat to spoil,” says Steger, who added that, while hunting on warm days, meat needs to go in the cooler right away.
“These specific ways of treatment are what you need to do to get the best taste and taking these steps before it goes into the oven or pot is the most important thing for quality.”
To Prepare Bear
Ron Messina, media specialist for the VDGIF, says the flavor of bear meat can depend on an individual bear’s diet.
“Bears are scavengers and eat things such as garbage or road kill, and this can affect what they taste like. But they also eat things like acorns, fruit, and corn.”
Steger says steaks or chops can be cooked slowly in a skillet. A roast can be prepared in a slow cooker, to which his wife likes to add a can of cream of mushroom soup.
“Bear meat is real rich and real high in protein — probably one of the richest meats that you can eat,” says Steger. “And for those people who want to eat organic or farm-raised meat, wild game is on the top of the list.”
“Sometimes, I think people go to too much trouble to hide the taste of the meat, using too many seasonings or barbecue sauce, so you don’t even know what you are eating,” says Steger.
“I don’t look for everyone to like it, but it’s really good food if it’s treated right and treated clean,” says Steger.
For more information, visit www.virginiabearhunters.org or www.dgif.virginia.gov. Or call David Steger at (540)384-6506 or Jaime Sajecki at (804) 652-7921.
For local meat inquiries, contact Joe Cloud at T&E Meats, 256 Charles Street in Harrisonburg, or call (540) 434-4415.
Contact Aimee George at 574-6292 email@example.com.