A term applied to wild animals that are deemed suitable for human consumption. Some species are now domesticated and because their diets and activity levels are changed, their meat has a different flavor than that of field animals. Game animals are categorized as large game and small game. The most common large game meat is venison, which, though commonly thought of as deer, is a term that broadly includes the meat from elk, moose, reindeer, caribou and antelope. Other popular large game animals include buffalo, wild boar and, to a lesser degree, bear. Additionally, there are even rarer varieties eaten around the world such as camel, elephant, kangaroo, zebra and wild sheep and goats. The most common small game animal is rabbit. Squirrel is also quite popular, followed distantly by beaver, muskrat, opossum, raccoon, armadillo and even porcupine. Any game found in commercial markets is federally inspected. Whether purchased commercially or obtained directly from the hunter, the factors that determine the meat's quality include the age of the animal (younger animals are more tender), the animal's diet and the time of year the animal was killed (best is fall, after plentiful spring and summer feeding). Equally important is how the dead animal was handled in the field. The meat of many otherwise excellent animals is damaged (and sometimes ruined) because of the manner in which it is dressed and transported after the kill. The tenderness of a particular cut of meat from large game animals is similar to the corresponding cut of beef and pork. In general, wild game is less tender than meat from domestic animals because the wild animals get more exercise and are therefore leaner. What fat there is is generally rank-tasting and should be removed. For maximum tenderness, most game meat should be cooked slowly and not overdone. It can be cooked with moist heat by braising, or with dry heat by roasting (with an effort to ensure maximum moistness through basting, larding or barding).
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.