Should you ever dine in Florence, Italy, at the “Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco” or, roughly translated, “Restaurant of the White Wild Boar,” you’ll probably do a double-take when reading a menu note beneath the pork and venison dishes: “The meat is fresh during hunting season and frozen the rest of the year.”
How does wild venison end up in a famous Florentine restaurant a block from the Arno River? This is novel stuff for American tourists. The closest thing to wild venison you’ll find in North American restaurants is meat from captive-raised New Zealand red deer and, to a lesser extent, Axis deer from Texas. In fact, New Zealand supplies about 85 percent of “venison” sold in U.S. restaurants.
In Italy, however, restaurants contract with private preserves to buy venison from animals killed by hunters. It’s popular with diners who gladly pay extra for this organic, high-quality, free-range meat that’s free of antibiotics, growth hormones, and artificial feeds and fatteners.