When we began our business in 1983, our intention was to make use of a resource that had developed in Central Texas where we wanted to live and raise our children. That resource was a variety of nonnative deer and antelope that had been introduced to the area a half century before. Several of the species, which were originally introduced by area ranchers, clearly established their ability to thrive in the arid and rocky conditions common in Central Texas. Populations of these animals had grown to the point that there was even concern they might “out compete” our native deer species.
Our business required development of sanitary and humane methods for harvesting these animals in their natural environment. Working closely with meat inspection agencies, we worked out unique procedures that included shooting and processing the animals under the watchful eye of a meat inspector. Processing takes place in mobile processing trailers that can be towed to a location convenient to the free-ranging herds.
Originally, we did not realize that we were actually developing an important procedure for harvesting what we would later come to appreciate as a sustainable food source. There are a number of reasons why this is the case.
Most of the land throughout the world available for producing food is much like our area of Texas – hot and dry, with poor soil conditions. Areas like these are capable of producing a wide variety of plants, but few of them are suitable as feed for traditional livestock. The deer and antelope we harvest thrive on a diet of these plants.
Traditional livestock species, especially cattle, also require large quantities of water. The deer and antelope we harvest have evolved to minimize their requirement for water. Some of the animals we harvest seldom or never drink water, obtaining the moisture they need from vegetation they consume. Given our growing concern about adequate supplies of water, this characteristic is potentially very important for food-producing livestock.
The ability of these animals to subsist on a wide variety of plant food and minimal water consumption combines to create a form of livestock that is also much more environmentally friendly. Their lack of dependence on a convenient water source allows them to wander freely over great distances, consuming only a small part of the vegetation they encounter. This prevents overgrazing and soil erosion. Their small hooves and lighter weight prevents compaction of the soil.
All of the economic and environmental advantages above are only part of the picture. These animals also produce meat of very high quality. It is extremely lean, good tasting, and free of chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, and other contaminants usually associated with traditional livestock.
To us, sustainable agriculture is the production of nutritious food on a continuous basis without causing a change in the environment. Propagation of the animals we harvest can do that. However, it requires the harvesting procedures we have developed to make it possible. We realize that food production will always require both highly managed and natural sources of food. We hope that our efforts will contribute to the food needs of the world’s population.