Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Keeping folks safe from themselves

Having lived in Minnesota since that cold weekend in 1978 when the Happy Warrior, Hubert H. Humphrey, was laid to rest, I am more than familiar with the tendencies of the state to zealously protect me from myself. In the latest head scratcher, the State of Minnesota is going to protect folks who visit food shelves from the lurking danger of invisible lead fragments in donated venison. When a deer is shot apparently very small, too small to be seen, particles of lead are sometimes found in the meat. Even though there is no evidence or research that indicates that this small amount of lead would be a problem, Minnesota government has leapt into action to keep this non problem at bay.

Chris Niskanen wrote about the issue in the St Paul paper today. I can't put it any more succinctly so here's Chris's take on the situation: "One state will account for more than 300,000 pounds of donated venison to food shelves, with no reported illnesses in a decade of operation. In the other state, only about 18,000 pounds will go to food shelves; no one has reported becoming ill there either. One state's donation program manager says, "People have been eating venison for hundreds of years, and we haven't had anybody with any lead issues." The other state's manager says, "We consider this a potentially serious problem."

Can you guess which state is which".

I'll bet you can. Wisconsin hunters donate 300,000 pound of some of the finest meat available to folks who need it. As many of you know, the culling of deer on Sand and York Islands in the Apostles is going on, quite successfully given the recent weather, and virtually all of those deer have been donated to area food shelves. That would not be the case here in the State Where Nothing is Allowed (thanks to J. Soucheray for that phrase). Venison is super lean, healthy, and environmentally sound. Its 'grass fed' (with a bit of corn and soybeans from time to time), the animals aren't fed antibiotics or growth hormones, and have virtually no fat. They are also not raised in a feedlot with serious groundwater runoff and even more serious odor and solid waste issues.

We hunters at Reefer Creek butcher our own deer and I've mentioned the construction of the new 'cut up shack' which some say is resembling a honeymoon cottage due to extravagant upgrades. We feel that doing it ourselves insures that hair, fat, and damaged meat are removed from the venison before it goes into the freezer or to the butcher to produce the savory sausage that the young man in the image above is devouring. I hesitate to mention more careful processing here in Minnesota because it easily could result in the Safe Venison Processing Act, passed by both bloated houses in the state legislature and signed by the governor using the tried and true 'what about the children?' justification. The State would then form the Venison Inspection Division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services to monitor butchers and folks like us. The Venison Tax would be instituted to pay for it and x ray inspection stations would be set up which would sell us a 'passed stamp' if our venison was lead free. We could then expand the program to ducks and small game that might have a pellet present in the meat. Or we could examine the ridiculous, "We consider this to be a potentially serious problem" mind set, ask that research and evidence be produced, or just be like Wisconsin and let the venison flow to the food shelves.

It seems to me that the benefit far outweighs the advantage. I fear that argument does not carry much weight with the bureaucrats that are protecting us from ourselves. Things like Olestra with its 'minor' side effect of 'anal leakage' (!!??) can slide.... sorry, couldn't resist... on to the market but a food that we've been harvesting and eating for centuries is questioned? I worry about the next hazard I'll be protected from.

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