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  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e   January 2009


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Au Naturel

Going "natural" before "natural" was cool.

More and more I am intrigued by two terms that are coming to the forefront of our country these days; these terms are "politically incorrect" and "socially incorrect." In fact, we could probably combine the two into one meaning and for purposes of this column I will do so.

The term seems to imply that if an individual or a group of folks speak, act or think in a certain manner, they and their attendant actions are acceptable.

One of the ways this is being applied concerns food, animals and their byproducts. These products are being labeled "natural" or "organic."

As I scanned the "B" section of the December 2008 issue of Desert Exposure, I was again intrigued by the number of ads offering "natural or "organic." A B&B offers a "natural foods breakfast," while another business touts that their beef is "natural" and "grass fed." There are ads for "organic produce," "organic coffees" and a deli that proffers "organic vegetarian." Why, there's even an ad for "natural pet foods"!

It is now politically correct to advertise, sell, buy and eat "natural"! Yahoo!

The reason that I'm shouting for joy is because of the fact that I'm now part of that elite group of folks. As a matter of fact, I was in that group long before it was even a group, let alone acceptable and fashionable.

The "natural" fly-in-the-ointment is that while I'm now "correct" in what I do, I'm at the same time, very "incorrect." Huh? How can this be?

Permit me to explain, even though I know that some of you have a sneaking suspicion of where I'm going with this. You see, I'm a hunter and hunters have been utilizing natural, pesticide- and hormone-free food for eons.

I shot my first critter-for-food back when I was seven years old; it was a nut-eating tree squirrel. Since then I have killed and devoured all manner of "natural" game, from mighty elk to tiny bunnies, and, as one ad puts it, all of these critters were naturally grown without hormones, antibiotics or steroids. And much of this game was locally produced right here in southwest New Mexico.

Except when a harsh winter is on the horizon, thus causing all manner of critter to lay on extra layers of fat, most wild game has a minimal amount of the greasy stuff. That translates to it being healthy for me to consume.

Here are some facts: Most game meat has significantly fewer calories than domestic, grain-fed beef, pork or chicken. Wild game meat is leaner and has less saturated fat. The most important benefit is that game meat has a significantly higher content of healthy polyunsaturated fat, especially compared to beef or pork!

For instance, elk meat has 22.8 percent protein; only turkey and chicken have more, while elk has only 0.9 percent fat! Deer meat has 23.6 percent protein and only chicken equals it. Wild pheasant has the least fat of any critter, domestic or wild, and has a protein value of a whopping 25.7 percent.

Remember that tree critter I shot? Squirrel meat has fewer calories than any domestic critter except for turkey and chicken.

No two ways about it, wild game meat is ounce for ounce better and healthier for you to consume. And my dawgs benefit, too; they consume the unwanted meat from any critter I shoot. I simply grind it up, then freeze it until I need it.



I came from a farm family, and they, too, practiced "natural" growing. For instance, as a youth it was my "chore" to gather all of the fallen apples from various trees in the yard. I hated that chore!

The various types of apples were in various stages of rottenness, and I had to fight with the myriads of "fruit bees" (which were actually yellowjacket hornets) for possession of them.

I'd gather the fruit into three-gallon galvanized metal buckets and haul the produce to the pig pen and dump it there, much to the delight of said porkers. They'd consume all of the apples plus ears of field corn and other grains and then promptly poop it all out.

It was also my lot in life to shovel the poo-goo, along with the chicken and cow manure, into a wagon, whereupon my elders would scatter it on the garden for fertilizer and truly grow "natural and organic" food.



But let me digress from the topic of food and jump into a more "sensitive" area for some of you. What could be more sensitive than hunting and killing and eating what I harvest?

Well, when we talk about "natural," what could be more natural than the wearing of "natural" clothing? Think about this: The majority of all clothing is made from petroleum byproducts — nylon, plastic, polyester, orlon, vinyl, and the list goes on. Yet it is "politically correct" to decry the extravagant use of petroleum and its products.

Usually folks are very tunnel-visioned when it comes to "black gold"; we see only our use of gasoline, oil and diesel. But our personal use of petroleum products in almost every vestige of our lives goes unnoticed. Look about you — just what all is made from plastic?

So, to be more "correct," shouldn't we be espousing the use of "natural" clothing such as furs and leather? Yet all we hear is how "politically incorrect" that is. Good leather will outshine quality vinyl any day; it wears, looks and feels better. I have a leather jacket that is 30 years old and still going strong. I'll bet a bullet that most of you wear leather gloves and belts and shoes, too.

Fur is warm. Why do you think God put it on so many critters? And it can be enduring, too, along with being easy on the eyes. Fur worn towards the inside has excellent insulating qualities. Sure, there might be synthetics that can be just as useful, but remember they are all made from oil!

By the way, the wearing of fur is at an all-time high in the world, despite it being "politically incorrect" here in the USA.

I'm not talking about wearing fur from endangered critters, or from animals raised in teensy cages and awful conditions just for their fur. But if you're OK with slaughtering cattle for beef — and I know some folks aren't — why not also use the hide? The same goes for using the hide as well as the venison from a deer I shoot. And isn't it wasteful not to wear the fur from a depredating coyote that gets killed?

Then there is bird down, specifically duck and goose down; it is very warm and insulating. In fact, most synthetics can't beat it. It is found in better clothes as well as bed comforters and pillows and sleeping bags. The down side (pun intended) is that when it gets wet, it is almost useless. But there again, the alternative to down is oil byproducts.

So there you have it. I can enjoy the best of both worlds — I'm both politically correct and incorrect! It just doesn't get any better!

Happy 2009! As always, keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may the Forever God bless you.



Larry Lightner writes Ramblin' Outdoors exclusively for Desert Exposure.



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