Farmed vs. Wild Venison: What’s the Difference?
New Zealand is home to large populations of both wild and farmed deer — but funnily enough, the animals aren’t actually native to the islands. Red and white-tail deer were brought over from Great Britain for hunting throughout the late 19th century.1 And in 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt gifted 18 American elk to New Zealand, which bred with red deer to create the majestic wapiti herd that famously roams the stunning, glacier-carved Fiordland National Park on the South Island.
By the 1960s, New Zealand’s deer population was enormous, and farmers saw the potential to domesticate the animals and produce farmed venison. Since then, New Zealand has become the number one source of farm-raised venison in the world.2 And here at Silver Fern Farms, we’ve perfected our free-range farming practices — allowing our deer to roam about the rolling foothills and bask in New Zealand’s bright sunshine — to create the highest quality venison imaginable.
Yet all this begs the question: how is farmed venison like ours different from wild venison?
The “Gamey” Myth
Whether farmed or hunted, venison is considered game meat. This classification makes many people believe that both kinds of venison have an unpleasant “gamey” taste. Not so! Yeah, all venison tends to have earthy and complex flavors — but the difference in taste between wild and farmed is actually very distinct.
Wild deer eat a highly varied diet, everything from acorns to wild sage to tree bark. As such, their meat has a much more intense — and inconsistent — flavor. And you’ll get a lot of that “gamey” taste in the fatty parts of their meat.3
But farmed deer, even those that graze on open pastures, eat a stable diet. At Silver Fern Farms, our deer eat living, growing New Zealand grasses year-round, as well as some clover and wild herbs that naturally crop up in the fields. This makes our venison much more delicate and consistent in flavor than wild venison — but still rich and full of herby complexity. Also, Silver Fern Farms venison is super lean, with next to no fat, so there’s nowhere to store any gamey-ness!
Tender, Never Tough
Another huge difference between farmed and wild venison? The texture. In the wild, deer are constantly on the move, using all of their super strong muscles — which leads to tough, dry meat. Before cooking, you typically need to pound it with a tenderizer or soak it in vinegar. (So much work!)
Life on the farm, however, is gentle. The deer of Silver Fern Farms wander and graze freely in our beautiful fields, but without the stressors they’d encounter in the wild. We also follow the international principles of the five freedoms of animal health and welfare to help reduce any stress our deer may feel, from the pastures to the processing plant. And we have high quality standards, including raising our deer without growth hormones or steroids. Combined, these measures help ensure our venison always has a tender, velvety texture and is ready to cook right away.
What About Nutrition?
Both wild and farmed venison are low in fat and cholesterol — but high in lean protein and rich in nutrients. They’re also a great source of easy-to-absorb heme iron, immunity-boosting zinc, and choline, which promotes healthy brain function. Want some more B vitamins in your diet? Venison’s got a whole heap of ‘em!
You’ve Got To Taste It To Believe It
All that said, there’s really only one way to truly grasp the difference of farmed venison: eat it! Shop Silver Fern Farms venison to discover its unique taste and texture — and check out some of our recipes.