What's In a Name?
Buffalo or Bison?
When is a Buffalo not a Bison? As the popularity of game meats increases, the misrepresentation of products is increasing. Some of this is due to lack of knowledge on the part of the purveyor's representative and some is just plain dishonesty.
We work hard to produce high quality products of several species of deer, antelope, and wild boar. As a user of these products, you should be as concerned as we are about accurate information regarding the exact species of the meat you buy. Here are some examples of misrepresentation.
American bison has become very popular and the demand for high-quality bison exceeds the supply (we do not currently supply bison meat). Meat from the water buffalo is being marketed as "buffalo" meat, which of course it is. What is not being made clear to the buyer is that this is not American bison meat.
Elk or Red Deer?
Meat purveyors in this country have recognized that the term "elk" is more attractive to American consumers than "red deer." The fact is that deer farmers in New Zealand have cross-bred some of their red deer with wapiti (American elk) and now offer meat which is part elk and part red deer. Of course, at some level of cross-breeding it is truthful to represent this meat as "elk." The problem is that purveyors often represent red deer meat with little, if any, elk blood as "elk." The consumer believes they are eating American elk.
Rattlesnake or Tropical Snake?
Rattlesnake has become so popular as a novelty meat that we can no longer obtain a reliable supply. This has caused some of our competitors to offer snake meat from other countries as "rattlesnake." One meat purveyor told one of our customers that he had "rattlesnake meat from the Phillipines." There are a lot of snakes in the Phillipines, but not American rattlesnakes.
Why should this matter to you?
These are all fine distinctions. Should they really matter to you? They should matter to you if you feel an obligation to your customers to accurately represent the food you are serving to them. We believe they patronize your restaurant because they look up to you as an expert in foods that may not be as familiar to them. Any failure on your part to exercise your expertise in buying food products and taking steps to be sure your wait staff is accurately representing them to your customers will damage your professional credibility.
How can you be sure what you are buying?
How can you be sure the wild game meats you are buying are being correctly represented to you? First of all, read the label carefully. Secondly, learn more about the animals from which the meat is derived. For example, a red deer is considerably smaller than an elk. The weights of the primal cuts such as the saddle and leg are quite different. If a purveyor sends you a bone-in leg that weighs 15 to 20 pounds, it doesn't come from an elk. An elk leg will weigh 40 to 60 pounds. The saddles will be proportionally larger as well.
Last, and not least, buy your game meats from a purveyor who can be relied upon to tell you the truth in all cases, even if it means not making the sale.