What Animal Does Venison Come From?

Venison is generally meat from a deer, although meat coming from similar animals in the family Cervidae (such as moose, elk, reindeer, caribou, and antelope) is also called venison. All of these animals, collectively called cervids, are commonly hunted for food.

The word "venison" came into English from Old French. Originally, it meant meat from any large game, especially deer or boars, but boars are now considered a separate meat type. The word also generically meant a hunt. Today, hunting cervids, whether for venison or trophy antlers, is widely practiced as population control due to the reduction or elimination of apex predators in many woodlands.

In some areas, such as the high Arctic, venison serve as a primary source of food. Indigenous people living there utilize caribou for meat and clothing and have even raised them as domesticated animals in the past.

Of the cervids hunted as venison, moose are the largest. They can yield over 900 pounds of meat. Both elk and moose have a beef-like taste, while whitetail deer, a much more common and wider ranged species, has a mild flavor heavily dependent on the animal's diet. Although mule deer meat is considered to be venison, mule deer are not often hunted as food due to their unpleasant flavor.