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Review: Maui Nui Venison Sticks

In the previous post, Venison was featured as the main ingredient for Burgers and Things award winning “Doe a Deer Burger”, that won the title “Worlds Best Burger” on the hit Swedish television show Varldens Basta Burgare. The supplier of the meat for that is Maui Nui Venison, based on Maui and Oahu, who works together with Makaweli Meat Company on Kauai for USDA-approved processing and packaging. 

Hawaii Axis Deer. Photo source: Haleakala Bike Co.

Venison is the meat of a deer — specifically here, Axis Deer, a.k.a. Chital, which roam rampant in the wild on the Hawaiian islands of Molokai, Maui and Lanai. So high are the population and reproduction rate of wild Axis Deer on the neighbor islands, that according to Kimo Tuyay, co-owner of Maui Nui Venison, the amount they cull is only about 10% of the total at any given time. Of which to note, Axis Deer, like boar and many other animals in the wild in Hawaii are invasive species. Thus, hunting is allowed to keep their population in check.

Because the venison Maui Nui sells are culled from the wild and not farm-raised, that USDA-approved processing by Makaweli Meat Company is a key part of the operation that controls quality, safety and sustainability. Lab tests are done regularly to ensure there’s no disease or bacteria in the animals. 

Venison steaks. Source: Wikipedia

I don’t personally know any island hunters, so Deer meat isn’t something that regularly comes my way through the “ohana kokua program” lol. The last time I had it, it was a while ago from my cousin on the neighbor island, who had smoked it. I do remember it being a little gamey and very lean, while not really being able to determine any other distinctive difference between it and beef. Yet I could tell it was “different”. 

As for Burger and Things “Doe a Deer” Burger, regarding the course-ground braised to medium rare venison patty, it tasted almost like beef, yet again, much leaner. Perhaps beef with a slight hint of pork to it. Very slight. I didn’t taste anything gamey at all about it, that’s for sure. And I can tell just from it, that there’s definitely potential for Venison as an ideal replacement to beef, whether it be a steak, roast, stew, soup, stir-fry, sausage, with pasta, you name it. 

Which leads us to these here Maui Nui Venison Sticks, again, compliments of Maui Nui Venison via Burgers and Things Pauoa. 

Think of it this way: take one part Maui Jim sunglasses, plus one part Slim Jim, then shout out like a giant WWE wrestler, “Snap into a Maui Slim Jim!”.  And voila! lol

Each Maui Nui Venison stick measures approximately 6″ length by 1/2″ diameter, with 4 sticks in a 3 oz. vacuum pack. It currently retails at Don Quijote for $7.99. 

Maui Nui Venison Sticks ingredients are: Venison, Beef, Brown Sugar, Salt, Natural Smoke Flavor, Spices, Garlic Powder and Celery Powder. Each stick (+ 1/3 more) provides 52 calories, 2 grams total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 trans fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 360 mg sodium , 2 g carbs, 0 fiber, 2 g sugar and 8 g protein. 

I cut a Maui Nui Venison Stick up in sections on the bias so you can get a detailed look inside, where notice it’s very dense, with bits of marbleized fat mixed sparsely throughout. The latter of which surprising, being how lean I’m told venison meat is. 

And? If you didn’t tell me this was Venison, I would have thought it was a beef stick, like any other Slim Jim, albeit VERY LEAN. You know how when you bite into a Slim Jim or other typical beef stick, there’s that burst of fatty oil that gushes out? Well these Venison Sticks have none of that. In fact, some might think it’s too lean, where it doesn’t have any textural character. It really doesn’t, actually, with hardly anything fibrous or decadently fatty about it. Even boring perhaps,  yet not to me. The grind is very fine, where it almost seems like you’re eating a pate stick, not a meat stick. Albeit very HARD. I mean, you need some pretty good teeth to get through this. It’s tough, yet not stringy-tough like beef jerky, but more “meat stick tough”.  OK wait, much of that didn’t sound right. lol 

The style of this particular stick is your typical American style beef jerky, with no shoyu in it, which I really think would make it taste better. This one with just a slight hint of smokiness and basic seasonings was kinda’ plain. I mean still a good meat stick (I really don’t like saying that lol), however a shoyu, sugar and ginger-infused “Teriyaki-fied” version of this Venison Stick would be much better, I’m quite sure of. 

What? Maui Nui Venison Sticks
Where did you get it and how much? Given as a sample by Maui Nui Venison; retails in stores for about $8 for a 3 oz. package of 4 sticks
Big Shaka to: Tastes very similar to beef, albeit much leaner. Not gamey at all. Nice firm “bite”, with enough of a jerky element for an overall satisfactory “meat stick” experience. lol
No Shaka to: A bit too lean. Meat grind could be more course; it’s more like a hard “meat stick pate” in this case. Seasonings and smoke flavor are relatively bland, where it should be adjusted for more intensity; a shoyu-based Teriyaki style would be better, IMO. 
Tasty Island rating: 3 SPAM Musubi (Very Good)


Related links:
Something new: Maui Nui Venison – Frolic Hawaii
Burgers and Things Pauoa wins “World’s Best Burger” designation – Tasty Island

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