What Is Venison?
In current usage, the term venison is used to describe the meat of a deer or antelope. Venison comes from animals such as our native whitetail deer, reindeer, moose, elk, and several non-native animals such as red deer, axis deer, fallow deer, sika deer, blackbuck antelope, and nilgai antelope.
The following is an excerpt from A GOURMET´S GUIDE - FOOD AND DRINK A TO Z by John Ayto (p. 368):
In common with beef, mutton, pork and veal, venison was a term introduced by the descendants of the Norman Conquerors of England to refer to the flesh of a particular animal used as food. But it has not always meant "deer meat." At first, it referred to the meat of any animal killed in the chase, which could include wild boar, hare, and rabbit as well as deer ("Hares are thought to nourish melancholy, yet they are eaten as venison, both roasted and boiled." Fynes Moryson, An Itinerary, 1617.) This reflects the word’s origins, in Latin venatio, "hunting game;" a derivative of the verb venari, "hunt." Signs of the modern narrowing-down in signification to "deer meat" appear in the late 16th century ("Amongst the common sort of people, nothing is accounted venison but the flesh of red and fallow deer," John Manwood, A Treatise of the Laws of the Forest, 1598), but wider options remained open well into the 19th century ("a haunch of Kangaroo venison," Godfrey Mundy, Our Antipodes, 1852). In 1983, Broken Arrow Ranch worked with the USDA to refine the definition of "venison" for meat labeling purposes. After a great deal of research and discussion, it was agreed that the term "venison" could be used for labeling meat derived from members of the deer and antelope families.
Even though it is technically correct to refer to both antelope and deer meat simply as venison, here at the Broken Arrow Ranch we make a distinction between the two so our customers know exactly what they are getting. Many products are labeled with the specific animal species, such as Axis deer or South Texas Antelope (also called nilgai antelope). There are subtle and interesting differences in flavor between the two, but both make outstanding dishes. Our products labeled as “venison” may contain a mixture of deer and antelope meat.