What does venison taste like? Is it ‘gamey’ or are we just not refined enough?

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Over the last couple of months I’ve been thinking a lot about the taste of venison, that is meat from a deer. Often when you hear people talk about the taste of venison (whether they like it or not) they refer to it as ‘gamey’. But what do they mean by this? Unfortunately the term ‘gamey’ does little to actually describe the texture or the favour of deer meat. Rather when people use this word that are actually borrowed a loaded term from the political vernacular which described not the taste, texture or quality of the meat, but rather the political designation of the animal and the laws concerning how it can and cannot be treated. That is, deer are legally labelled in most states of Australia as being a ‘game’ animal. Hence the ‘gamey’ taste connection. But is this term a helpful, accurate or useful way to describe deer meat?

I say all of this because I don’t think it’s is ethical, practical or helpful describe the taste of venison in this way. The word ‘gamey’ does little actually describe the flavour profile of the meat (is it sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, spicy, creamy, umami or astringent). The term does however effect the way people who use this word perceive the meats value, influences and strengthens their subconscious bias towards disliking it and ultimately manifests in behaviours relating to how they then treat deer more generally.

For some people the line between ‘game animal’ and ‘pest’ is thin, for others it’s none existent. If you think of deer as a pest you can see then how it’s not a long stretch to then believe that it’s meat is corrupted, debase or just ‘yuck’.

Like many things in life, there is beauty in everything. Finding that beauty involves searching, experience and a journey towards appreciation. For instance, how many children enjoy the taste and smell of coffee the first time they experience it? It’s a taste that is acquired and appreciated after much experimentation and trail. Imagine the loss to humanity if we’d simply said that coffee was ‘gamey’ and then discarded it without spending more time searching for it’s value. A word without coffee is not one I want to imagine personally.

I would argue that the same is true for venison. It’s a ‘refined’ taste and one people should try for themselves and experience a number of times before passing personal judgement. If after trying venison a few times they don’t like it that’s fine, not everyone likes every food. That’s what makes food unique, valuable and interesting.

Just maybe think about whether using the word ‘gamey’ is appropriate. Or if there is a better word we can use to describe deer meat.

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