If you eat meat and you grew up in a city, you’ve probably enjoyed chicken, beef, pork, and even occasional restaurant servings of venison, rabbit, or duck. Large game meat such as caribou, elk, or bear, though, may seem like strange choices for those who didn’t grow up in proximity to the wilderness.
Is bear meat edible? That depends upon its source and how carefully the meat was transported, stored, and cooked. Bear meat can be healthy when correctly prepared, but if you don't cook it thoroughly, you run the risk of contracting a parasite.
How Can Bear Meat Improve Your Health?
The taste of wild game may take some getting used to, especially if you’re accustomed to fatty steaks or ground beef. Bear meat, though, can provide a lean, healthy option when compared to beef.
Less fat than beef. Do you try to buy lean ground beef at the grocery store, or do you enjoy the taste of a marbled ribeye steak? The American Heart Association recommends including unprocessed, lean meat in their heart-healthy diet plan.
If you’re avoiding extra saturated fat in your diet, bear meat is a good choice. Compared to beef, which contains up to 20.7% fat in a package marked “lean”, bear meat contains 20.1% protein and only 8.3% fat.
Unprocessed. Due to the restrictions on hunting and selling game meat, bear meat likely isn’t going to start appearing on grocery store shelves anytime soon, meaning that it is less likely to include additives/preservatives.
If you get the chance to eat bear meat, there’s a good chance that you are a hunter, know a hunter, or eat at a place that sources bear meat directly from hunters during the appropriate season. The do-it-yourself aspect of hunting, cleaning, and cooking bear meat can be an enjoyable activity that’s good for your mental and physical health.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Bear Meat for Your Health?
Is bear meat healthy, or is it just another red meat that will make you less healthy over time? Safely cooked bear meat can be a versatile protein addition to your favorite weeknight recipes, or you can try it for a one-time adventure.
Before you indulge in wild game, though, consider the following pros and cons of finding, preparing, and eating bear meat.
- Bear meat contains fewer calories per 100 grams of meat than even lean beef does.
- Bear meat is a great source of protein and many other essential nutrients.
- Hunting provides a recreational activity that boosts mental and physical health.
- You’ll have to hunt your own meat or find someone else who will (though to some people, this may be a plus). This may include learning how to clean and cook the animal.
- You may be susceptible to parasitic infection and the resulting food poisoning if you don’t clean your space well and cook the meat thoroughly.
- Your bear meat may taste bad if you hunt bears who have eaten fish.
What Nutrients Are in Bear Meat?
A 100-gram portion of bear meat from an Alaskan black bear provides 155 calories, 20.1 grams of protein, and a whopping 7.2 milligrams of iron, in addition to a few B-vitamins and a moderate serving of vitamin A.
Protein. Protein is an important component of muscle, skin, bone, hair, and internal organ health. Fortunately, a 20.1 gram serving of protein in bear meat meets almost half of the daily protein requirement for someone weighing 140 pounds.
Iron. Men need around eight grams of iron per day while women need significantly more — around 18 if you are menstruating and 28 if you are pregnant. Bear meat, when safely prepared, offers a great source of heme, or animal-based, iron, which is the type that is the easiest to absorb.
Is Eating Bear Meat Ever a Bad Idea?
Risk of parasites. Large animals hunted for their meat are often hosts to several types of parasites. Many bears carry Trichinella parasites, though they’re not aware of this, and the presence of these parasites doesn’t necessarily affect their health.
Unfortunately, Trichinella can make humans very sick with symptoms such as fever, muscle pain, swelling in the face and extremities, and stomach problems. Consequently, it’s essential to completely clean your bear meat before cooking it and to cook it thoroughly so that there is no risk of infection.
Taste issues. Game meat, with its higher protein-to-fat ratio, may taste foreign to those accustomed to eating grocery store beef and similar meat. Even if you do like the flavor of bear meat, be aware that the meat itself may taste different from year to year, and the flavor may change depending upon whether it is mating season.
Also consider where you are hunting and what the animals’ diet during the current season may be: Bears that have eaten a lot of fish are, unfortunately, known to taste and smell pretty bad.
What Else Should I Know Before Hunting Bears for Meat?
Hunting is a sport: It allows you to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, it can relieve stress and give you time away from sedentary activities, and it gives you a short-term goal to focus on. Despite the benefits of hunting for you, it’s important to be aware of how your hunting affects the environment and local ecosystems before you head out with a firearm.
Become a competent hunter before heading out. Do you understand how to use your firearm safely? Get plenty of practice using it before you go hunting for the first time (or if it’s been a long time since you’ve hunted).
If you’ve never hunted large game before, it may be a good idea to study this topic and learn how hunting big animals differs from small animals. For example, you should know when hunting season starts and ends and learn how to use a map to locate your desired species of game.
Learn how to prepare the animal and cook bear meat. The health benefits of enjoying wild game go beyond bear meat nutrition. Hunting can provide you with exercise and the immense pride that you have brought home delicious meat for your entire family.
If you’ve never hunted a bear before, though, you should go into the hunt with the knowledge that you’ll need to make a lot of important decisions should you manage to shoot one. Bears are heavy, and you will likely not be able to move your bear by yourself. First-time bear hunters should devise a plan for moving the animal carcass and preserving the meat to ensure that it doesn’t spoil before cooking.
If you wish to include bear meat as a part of a healthy, balanced diet, know that it is high in protein, full of iron, and safe for humans to eat when prepared properly. Speak to your doctor or a licensed nutritionist before trying bear meat, though, if you need advice for your diet or if you have a medical condition that may be affected by a dietary change.