Tom O’Hara: They don’t sell bear meat at Whole Foods

I was doing research about Florida’s astonishingly efficient bear hunt and I came across an equally astonishing analogy.

The chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wrote this about hunting:

“Think of it as nature’s Whole Foods.”

In fairness to Brian Yablonski, here’s that nugget in context:  “Hunting is the first and original organic and natural grocery store, offering locally-grown and harvested protein from the land. Think of it as nature’s Whole Foods. Health-conscious families value living off the land.”

Yablonski offered that observation in an FWC news release last week titled “The Hunter Conservationist Paradox,”  which he said he was sharing to mark Teddy Roosevelt’s 157th birthday. (I wonder whether he wrote an essay for Teddy’s 156th?).

Yablonski didn’t mention the state-sponsored hunt of Florida black bears that ended prematurely last week because our state’s outdoorsmen knocked off 298 bears in just two days. The goal was to get rid of 320 of the trash-can-tossing critters in a week.

I know nothing about guns or hunting or bears. My idea of surviving the wilderness is to ride a snowboard down a black slope.

But I do know grocery stores and shopping at Whole Foods just doesn’t seem like an apt analogy for hunting. So, I went to the Whole Foods on Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale and did some research.

First, I don’t think you want to be dumping a bear carcass into the trunk of a Jaguar or Mercedes, which were in abundance on the parking lot. I must admit that I saw a Ford F150, but it didn’t have a single NRA sticker on its bumpers. There was a Range Rover in the lot, too, but alas, there wasn’t a Rebel battle flag in sight.

In fact, I didn’t even see an American flag inside or outside the store. Further, I didn’t see any shoppers in camouflage.

I have a friend who occasionally shops at Whole Foods simply to gaze at the female shoppers. I’ve seen photos from the bear hunt check-in stations, and there were some female hunters. But they didn’t rival the Whole Foods women. Of course, the Whole Foods women were standing on 5-inch heels.

I’m guessing there weren’t a lot of gay guys shooting the bears. At Whole Foods, however, there were several harvesting in the orderly and well-stocked aisles.
I had a coffee and pastry in the dining area and I saw an older man reading. If shopping at Whole Foods is akin to hunting, I was expecting to see a copy of Guns & Ammo. Instead, he was reading The Wall Street Journal.

Finally I went to the meat counter in search of bear.

A lovely woman named Aliza was behind the counter and I was a bit surprised that she actually answered my questions.

“Do you have bear meat?”

“No.”

“Has anyone ever asked for bear meat?”

“No. No requests for bears or camels. We have had people ask for horse meat.”

I told her that didn’t surprise me. I’m told some people believe horse meat improves sexual performance.

As far as I can tell, bear meat doesn’t offer any health benefits.

“Bears often carry the larvae of a nasty parasite, Trichina spiralis. Eating undercooked bear meat can cause trichinosis, which can cause severe sickness or even death in humans,” according to a 2014 NPR story.

If you want to harvest protein from the wild, as Yablonski suggests, I’d skip the bear meat – or at least cook it for a long, long time.

I left the store unconvinced that shopping at Whole Foods is analogous to roaming Florida’s wildlife areas in search of wholesome protein.

And I left empty-handed. The place is too pricey for me. I do my hunting at Publix.

Tom O’Hara is a veteran newspaperman. He is the former managing editor of The Palm Beach Post and the Plain Dealer in Ohio. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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