The Wild Harvest Initiative: How Much Food Comes From the Wild?

I still remember the rant one of my teenage kids threw at me when he learned we were having cottontail rabbit for dinner, again. “Why can’t we eat normal food like everybody else?” he whined.

I told him what we ate, both from our garden and the game and fish that found its way to our table was the “normal” food for humans for thousands of years. It was only in the last 50 or 100 years normal food, at least here in the USA, became beef, pork, chicken, pizza and vegetables seemingly grown in cans or plastic, frozen bags.

He didn’t believe me, neither did my daughter, but they sat down and ate the rabbit that night with homegrown green beans. They reluctantly sat down and ate the fish, venison, duck or whatever I decided to have the next evening as well.

Now they are grown and on their own, living in cities far away. When they come back to Newton County for a visit, they come with a menu in mind – a menu that has nothing to do with beef, pork, chicken or pizza. They want seared Canada goose breasts, oven fried squirrel, venison chili, breaded walleye, grilled salmon or some other meal they remember from their adolescent years.

I suspect in many homes in many places around the USA similar stories could be told. Millions upon millions of Americans are hunters and fishers. Untold tons of wild meat and fish are brought home to be relished by the hunters and fishers or forced upon teenagers eager for pizza or chicken nuggets.

The Sportsmen’s Alliance has joined forces with Conservation Visions, Inc. on a groundbreaking new scientific project to quantify the annual wild protein harvest from hunting and fishing in the US and Canada.

“For the Sportsmen’s Alliance, protecting hunting and fishing includes contributing to research that highlights the roles of hunting and fishing in food security. Seldom is it acknowledged that the activities of hunting and fishing produce local, organic, injection-free protein, in addition to all the human health benefits of being active outdoors” said Sportsmen’s Alliance president, Nick Pinizzotto. “We pride ourselves on making decisions based on science and not emotion and propaganda. Partnering on this study is an important step to bringing people together that share a love of wild harvest, and are concerned about food security and where their food comes from.”

The Wild Harvest Initiative, a five-year project designed to accurately measure the actual biomass of wild animal protein harvested recreationally in the United States and Canada, will assess the nutritional, cultural and economic value of harvested game, as well as the ecological and financial costs of replacing this food through standard agricultural and domestic livestock production.

“The harvest and consumption of wildlife has been an integral part of the human story throughout the entirety of our existence,” said Shane Mahoney, President of Conservation Visions, and a widely recognized wildlife biologist and conservationist. “Agricultural and technological progress have certainly altered the ways we obtain our food, but in many regions of the world, including in the U.S. and Canada, human populations continue to rely on wild harvest for a significant part of their diet.”

The results of the Initiative will enable a better understanding of the economic and ecological impacts of current land management approaches and will help validate policies that lead to benefits for people, wildlife, and the natural habitats that support both. This will in turn, enable wildlife managers and policy makers to develop best practices for access to wild protein resources, and to extend benefits to as many people as possible.

The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance online, or through Facebook and Twitter.

Mike Schoonveld
Mike Schoonveld grew up hunting and fishing in rural Northwest Indiana. In 1986 he piggy-backed a career as an outdoor writer onto his already long tenure as a wildlife biologist with the Indiana DNR. Now retired from his DNR position, Schoonveld is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed boat captain, operates Brother Nature Charters on Lake Michigan and spends much of his time trailering his boat to fishing hotspots around Indiana and the Midwest. Mike can be reached through his website or visit Mike's Outdoor World Blog at


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