Pheasant Meat: Why Pheasant Meat Should Be Your Next Protein Choice

Written by Claire Wilson
Updated: July 12, 2023
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Some may hesitate about trying pheasant, as it’s not a common meat you see in the grocery store. However, it is very nutritious, and there are many reasons why you should eat pheasant meat. Known for their white, lean meat, many hunters enjoy the gamey flavor of wild pheasants. However, others prefer farm-raised pheasants, and many attest that it tastes just like chicken. In either case, pheasant meat is a healthy protein option, and here are five reasons why pheasant meat should be your next protein of choice.

History of Pheasants

Ringneck Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

Ring-necked pheasants inhabit various habitats, including agricultural fields, grasslands, and brushy areas.

©Piotr Krzeslak/Shutterstock.com

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People have been hunting pheasants for at least 2000 years. These birds originated from Asia and were gradually introduced to Europe and North America.

Pheasants were first transported to America in 1773. The Old English Blackneck Pheasants were shipped to New York and New Jersey by the governors at the time. However, this species of pheasant wasn’t strong enough to survive the climate of these East Coast states.

It wasn’t until the late 1800s that pheasants really thrived in North America. In 1881, Owen Nickerson Denny released a group of Chinese Ring-necked pheasants that he had shipped to his home state of Oregon. In the early 1900s, many more pheasants were imported from English pheasant farms and introduced across the United States.

Today, pheasants populate 40 states in the U.S. and are prized birds in hunting and cooking culture. Let’s talk about the reasons why you should eat pheasant meat.

Reason #1: The Impressive Nutritional Value of Pheasant Meat

Pheasant sitting on grass

With only 3.1 grams of fat in a three-ounce portion, pheasant meat is very lean.

©Lukasz Lukasik / CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository – License

For a three-ounce portion of pheasant meat, there is only 3.1 grams of fat, which is only four percent of your daily value. There are zero grams of carbohydrates, which is great news for those on the Keto or low carbohydrate diets. It also packs an impressive 20 grams of protein. And for all that filling meat, a three-ounce portion of pheasant only contains 114 calories. Compare that to three ounces of beef which has 282 calories, or chicken breast, which has 204 calories.

A three-ounce portion of pheasant also provides thirty-six percent of your niacin (vitamin B3) daily requirements. Niacin helps convert food into energy. Pheasant is also high in vitamin B6, which helps metabolism as well as brain development and immune system function in infancy. Also, about thirty percent of your daily requirements of vitamin B12 are in a three-ounce portion of pheasant. Vitamin B12 helps with red blood cell formation, cell metabolism, nerve function, and more.

Overall, pheasant meat is quite healthy for you and benefits your body in many ways, which is one reason that you should eat pheasant meat.

Reason #2: Very Easy to Cook

Elliot's pheasant

Many liken the taste of pheasant meat to chicken.

©Wang LiQiang/Shutterstock.com

There are many simple ways to cook a pheasant and many interesting recipes to try. The most popular ways to cook pheasant include roasting, pan-searing, and grilling. But with each method of cooking, you will want to make sure the internal temperature is 165°F to ensure that it is safely cooked.

If you are thinking about roasting a pheasant, you should brush it liberally with oil or butter. Then, about two or three times during the roasting process, you should baste it with pan liquids to ensure the meat stays nice and moist.

If you are considering pan-searing a pheasant, you will want to melt butter in the pan until the butter is foamy. Then, season the pheasant with desired spices (such as salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, etc.) and cook it in the pan. Turn frequently until it is golden brown and the liquids clear when you pierce it. It should also reach an internal temperature of 165°F.

Grilling is also a popular option for pheasants. Before grilling, many brine the bird to keep it moist and counteract the intense heat of the grill. Rub the pheasant down with whichever spices you would like, and then brush it liberally with oil before putting it on the grill. Cook it until the internal temperature is 165°F and the legs are 180-190°F.

Unlike a soufflé, it’s hard to mess up cooking a pheasant. It’s a very forgiving meat that you may use in various dishes, which is another reason why you should eat pheasant meat.

Reason #3: Pheasant Meat Has Low Health Risks

Proper Hunting Gear is important

Pheasant hunting is a very popular activity, especially in South Dakota.

©Scharfsin/Shutterstock.com

Because pheasant meat is such nice, white meat without much fat, it is extremely healthy for you. Eating too much red meat, for instance, may raise the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers. But, pheasant is much lower in cholesterol and fat content, compared to sausage or steak, and won’t overwhelm your system with too much bad cholesterol.

However, since pheasants are game birds, the risk of eating them comes mainly from the shotgun pellets used to shoot them. Even if cleaned well, there is a chance of lead shot fragments in the meat, some fragments smaller than the eye can detect.

Researchers studied eight wild-shot pheasants in England and found up to 10mg of lead shards per bird—all of which were too small for the naked eye.

If you want to be completely safe, consider buying farm-raised pheasants or from a local source that raises pheasants.

Reason #4: Pheasant Is Among the Healthiest Meats

Green Pheasant in a Field - National Bird of Japan

Pheasant meat is lower in fat and cholesterol than red meat and other white meat like chicken and turkey.

©N.Sakamoto/Shutterstock.com

As mentioned before, pheasant is a very lean, white meat with not a lot of fat. For those who hate to pick around fat chunks in their meat, you will find pheasant easy and enjoyable to eat. Compared to other bird meat like chicken, turkey, and duck, pheasant meat has more protein and less fat per serving. Plus, it is also lower in cholesterol than the previously mentioned bird meat.

It is also lower in fat and cholesterol than red meats like pork and beef and has fewer calories.

Reason #5: Pheasant Meat Is Popular in Many Countries

Rare types of birds - Golden Pheasant

The Golden pheasant is a rare type of pheasant. In China, the Golden pheasant was believed to be descended from the phoenix and was a royal symbol in the Qing Dynasty.

©mooinblack/Shutterstock.com

The pheasant is a popular bird in Asia, Europe, and North America. Specifically in Great Britain, pheasants have been an aristocratic delicacy for centuries and are still the bird of choice for formal occasions.

China and other southeastern countries in Asia have a long history with this native bird. In Chinese art, pheasants are a symbol of beauty and good luck. The golden pheasant was believed to be an ancestor of the phoenix and incorporated into the royal robes of the Qing Dynasty.

In the United States, the pheasant is a very popular game bird, especially in the Great Plains states, such as Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. South Dakota averages an annual harvest of one million pheasants brought in by hunters. Some of the top states for pheasant hunting include Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, and Colorado. Most of these states allow you to shoot three roosters daily with a nine to twelve bird possession limit. Depending on the state, pheasant hunting season is between October to January.

Summary Table of 5 Things You Should Know About Pheasant Meat

NumberFact About Pheasant Meat
1Pheasant meat has impressive nutritional value.
2Pheasant meat is simple to cook.
3There aren’t many health risks associated with consuming pheasant meat.
4Pheasant is one of the healthiest meats to eat.
5Pheasant is a very popular meat in Asia, Europe, and North America.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Wang LiQiang/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Claire Wilson is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on reptiles, travel, and historic places and landmarks. Claire holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, which she earned in 2010. A resident of Wisconsin, Claire enjoys hiking, visiting parks, and biking nature trails.

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