Nutritional Information of Elk Meat

Overview

Elk are a member of the deer family, and are now being farmed, so frozen elk meat is available in supermarkets, specialty stores and on the Internet. One benefit of game meats (such as deer, elk, bison, and rabbit) is the lack of health worries, like hormone and other additives, environmental destruction, animal cruelty and diminished nutritional value, that can come with large-scale farmed meats (like poultry, beef and pork). All game meats are high in protein and relatively low in fat.

Preparing Elk Meat

Sources of free-range elk meat include the above-mentioned commercial ones, as well as hunting in states where taking elk is legal and regulated. Elk meat or any game meat can be cooked in a number of ways, from grilling to braising. For novices at game cooking (the meat can be quite tough if cooking steaks or other common cuts), ground meat is a good option. Ground meat will be tender, and it contains some fatty cuts and some lean cuts, which is a good mix in meat so lean.

Cooking Methods to Optimize Elk Meat Nutrition

According to a USDA Agriculture Handbook on Nutrition of Game Meats published in 1989, food composition tests showed that roasting (which is defined as a dry, direct-heat form of cooking) preserves essential vitamins and minerals as well as macronutrients such as protein, better than other cooking methods such as wet-braising or stewing, or frying. Vitamin B12 content was improved by 30 percent in a roasting method. You can roast on the stove-top, in a dry pan in the oven, or over an open flame on the grill, all good methods for cooking ground elk patties.

Macronutrient Content of Elk Meat

Using free-range ground elk meat as a baseline, 100 grams of meat contains 30 grams of protein, slightly more than the 27 grams found in hunted elk meat. Surprisingly, the free-range elk contained only 2.8 grams of total fat, while the hunted game elk had 8.7 grams. Sugars and starches were also present in the game elk, but not in the free-range elk. Complete calorie make-up for free-range elk was 143, while the game elk had 193 calories. These differences are due to the fact that free-range elk are grazers (eating grass, which is calorie and fat poor) while wild elk both graze and browse on roots, fruits, twigs and other plant parts (which contain a more complex fat and calorie profile).

Vitamin and Mineral Content of Elk Meat

Elk meat of hunted and free-range farmed elk is high in B-vitamin complex, which comes from the plants in the elks’ diet. Niacin, B6 and B12, all found in elk meat, are essential in human metabolism processes such as protein manufacture and healthy tissue and nerve maintenance. All elk meat contains around 5 to 6 grams of calcium, which compares well with other proteins. Elk meat, however, is particularly high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. These minerals are crucial for human nerve development, and the regulation of blood serum cholesterol and cardiovascular health.

Other Nutrients in Elk Meat

Elk meat is higher than beef or bison in omega-3 fatty acids, which are instrumental in lowering blood serum cholesterol and keeping LDL (bad) cholesterol down and HDL (good) cholesterol up. In addition, elk meat contains a full range of essential amino acids, which are required by the body to build proteins that form everything from brain and skin tissue to healthy skin and hair. Essential amino acids are those that cannot be made by the body and must be supplied by the diet.

About this Author

Ann R.B. Summers writes professionally about food, science, nature, nutrition, fitness and healthy living. She is the author of “Healthy Lunch, Healthy Mind,” and has regular articles in “Food and Spirits.” She has a B.A. in anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Society for Professional Journalists.