Roberto Barbani e Valentina Sabbioni
Given their wide geographic distribution, different types of habitat and need to source food on a daily basis, wild animals cover considerable distances, and as a result develop lean, well-oxygenated muscle. In some countries game meat is known as “black meat” (INRAN, IstitutoNazionale di Ricerca per gli Alimenti e la Nutrizione – the Italian National Food and Nutrition Research Institute), due to its high iron content, iron being indispensable for binding oxygen and therefore muscle function.

The meat from wild animals has particular nutritional qualities that make it a very healthy food: rich in protein, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and above all very lean and naturally low in cholesterol. The fat content of game ranges on average between 2% (0.6 to 2.6% in cervids) and 5% (3.5 to 5.2% in wild boar), while its calorie count is around to 110 and 120 kilocalories.

Meat is viewed as the main source of fat in our diet, and especially saturated fatty acids, which are implicated in many diseases now typical of Western society. The World Health Organization recommends that our daily intake of fat should be less than 30% of our total calories, and that saturated fat should be limited to 10%. Because of the risks associated with fat intake from red meat, there is now increasing demand for lean meats.

Game contains 50-80% less fat than red meat. Analyzing meat from wild animals that have been farmed shows that the feed administered significantly increased the fat content and reduced the ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fat. A study that looked at wild deer revealed that in their lean meat, there was a high level of polyunsaturated fatty acids, a high ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fat and a low ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. Wild boar meat has an omega-6/omega-3 ratio of between 6 and 8, significantly better than pork.
Like other single stomach animals, the fatty acid composition of wild boar meat depends on the animals’ diet. Wild boars eat a great variety of indigenous plants, herbs, seeds, roots, fruit, insects, earthworms, snails, small mammals and carrion. This kind of diet means that wild boar meat has a ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fat that is above the minimum threshold (0.4) recommended by the UK Department of Health to reduce the risk of heart disease in humans.
The high concentration of vitamin E in the meat of these animals helps increase its shelf life: vitamin E is an antioxidant, essential for the stability of the meat.
It is therefore to be hoped that more consumers come to appreciate these alternative meats, in the light of their evident health benefits and increasing availability.

The nutritional values of venison, roe venison and wild boar meat

Nutrients per 100 g of product Carbohydrates g Protein g Fat g Calories (kcal) g
Venison 0 22,96 2,42 120
Roe venison 0 21,5 2,66 111
Wild boar meat 0 21,51 3,33 122
Nutrients per 100 g of product Fat g Saturated g Mono-unsaturated g Poly-unsaturated g Cholesterol g
Venison 2,42 0,95 0,67 0,47 85
Roe venison 2,66 0,63 0,34 0,35 18
Wild boar meat 3,33 0,99 1,3 0,48 55
Nutrients per 100 g of product Poly-unsaturated g C18:2 Linoleic acid g C18:3 Linoleic acid g C20:4 Arachidonic acid g
Venison 0,47 0,31 0,07 0,1
Roe venison 0,35 0,18 0,05
Wild boar meat 0,48 0,38 0,02 0,08