Cheap, lean, sustainable meat from Hawaii to Europe

5 native canopy

Native O’hia and tree fern forest on the Big Island of Hawaii

Last December while on the Big Island of Hawai’i I got the opportunity to do something rather special. Here is the story:

At 8 am sharp my friend Ann called me from Puna, a district about 40 minutes away from the centre of town  –  one of the hippiest towns in the world. “I have a 200 pound boar in the cage, do you and Adam want to come over”. Adam, my landlord, and Ann’s old neighbour looked at me with delight and began running up and down the house packing up cold boxes, ice packs and his Alaskan riffle!

Ann catches about 40 boar on her property a year and can’t possibly eat all the meat so she invites friends over for ‘boar gatherings’.

Why are boar so prevalent and why is it OK to shoot them?

Well, there is trouble in Paradise, The Hawaiian Archipelago, once known as islands of evolution, are now islands of extinction. The arrival of people changed the conditions that fostered the original diversity of life . As land was cleared to plant crops and build communities, the forests vanished. Polynesian and other settlers brought many terrific staple crops along with them, but also introduced invasive plants and animals, and many thrived in their new home with no predators to control populations. Pigs destroy the understory of tree fern and the native o’hia forests. Their muddy burrows become breeding grounds for mosquitoes that transmit avian malaria and pox to native birds. Invasive plants, like the faya and kahili ginger, displace cast areas of Hawaiian forests. The list goes on and on,  as the onslaught of introduced plants and animals drove countless species to extinction making Native species restoration very difficult. (This is why the researchers I am working with are attempting a novel restoration technique which you can read about here).

Now you can imagine why I was so eager to kill a wild boar and have it for dinner !

That morning, I knew I had an opportunity of a lifetime but it was a weekday and didn’t know if I could ditch my fieldwork crew to go kill a boar. I waited until 8:30 to make a phone call and next thing I knew, I was riding down dirt roads to the boonies in my 1990 Subaru !

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Ann hadn’t dared to get close of the cage all morning, by fear that the angry boar would tip the cage over and charge . When Adam arrived, the two of them took their riffles out. Adam was going to shoot, and Ann was ready for the second shot in case the pig began to charge.

As soon as it was done, while the pig was still convulsing Ann ran to the boar with a jar to catch some blood as quickly as she possibly could ! ” I make delicious pudding ” she said ! Indeed, the blood streams off quickly and coagulates which explains her desire to move rapidly.

Adam’s twelve-year-old son attached a rope around the boar’s ankle and we hoisted it up a tree using  a hand-held pulley.

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We skinned the boar for the next three hours, exchanging knives for different tasks, chatting and laughing . I thought I’d be nauseated by the smell because I have a very well developed olfactory sense but as we stood outside with the coastal breeze fluttering in the trees it wasn’t too asphyxiating . The only time I had to step back is when we opened the intestines to look inside and observed a bright green interior full avocados !

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Once we were finished, Ann showed us her ultimate ‘off-the-grid’ tricks to get rid of the tan, limbs and head. She gathered everything in a pile under the tree and said that in just a few days her fifteen chicken would be out pecking at the maggots! “The entire flesh will be gone in a month”, leaving the carcass behind for her to add to her collection of skulls !

After that morning I felt like something had changed, like I’d experienced something important, breathtaking and exciting. It occurred to me that every child like Adam’s 12 year old son should experience such an activity – dating back to our hunter gatherer ancestors.

With a trunk full of meat, we knew what would be on the plate for Thanksgiving dinner the following day!  I modified my mother classic Thanksgiving recipe and we all enjoyed breadfruit-wild boar stuffing.

 

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 A word on sustainable meat consumption: 

Ten years after Michael Pollan’s  The Omnivore’s Dilemma planted a stake in the vast expanse between carnivore and vegan, the predicament of what to eat for dinner hasn’t gotten any simpler — and neither has the quest to pinpoint the word to describe the ‘ethical moderate’ (K. Yoder, Grist.org).

Since I’ve been at university, the detrimental effects of meat consumption on the planet (deforestation, green house gas emission…) have been pounded in my head and I became a one-day-a-week carnivore/ a reducetarian / a climatatian / a vegavore / a carnesparsian (Yes, those words exist!) . Now, that one day a week I eat sustainable meat — not grass-fed beef  but invasive species.

I’m not asking everyone to go find a wild boar to kill and take home to the family, but I ‘d like to introduce people to the idea of eating invasive species as a source of meat. Every country has different invasive species- in the NorthEast US where I went to College, here in the UK where I currently live, and at my parents’ house in the Alps D E E R are a huge nuisance . Those cute Bambis eat people’s vegetable gardens, causing people to spend a lot of money on fencing, they spread ticks and lime disease and they are the origin of many accidents on the road.

Invasive species are ‘free-range’ and usually the source of delicious, lean meat.  In the US, it’s rather easy to get a hunting permit which makes this meat source ever so cheap !

So what’s the pest where you live? How can you source that meat?

At Oxford, I get my venison from the local farmers market across the road. If you live in the UK, Abel and Cole delivers venison right to your doorstep, along with local veggie boxes if you are so inclined.

~Now, a few more pictures of this memorable day ~

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Ann is collecting a little fat to make her own soap ! She is a role model when it comes to sustainable practices and lives 99% off the grid.

 

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