Biltong has long been recognised in South Africa as the perfect accompaniment to arduous hunting trips, mountaineering expeditions and sitting through a rugby game. With growing numbers of ex-pat communities around the world biltong – a dry cured meat – has travelled the globe and is finding increasing popularity amongst other cultures. Probably because it’s plain delicious. In terms of a health and convenience for those with an active lifestyle biltong has some considerable advantages. Easy to store, lightweight, packed with nutrition and protein it’s perfect for long trips that require energy and stamina. In terms of being a healthy choice, biltong is an excellent low fat snack and is versatile enough to be used as a base for soups and stews. When it comes to the choice between game and beef versions of biltong this is, in many cases, one of taste. Game biltong is common in South Africa, where native species such as the Kudu, the Springbok or even the Ostrich have leant their services to create a delicious healthy meal.
Nutritionally both versions are an excellent source of protein. The levels of fat in meat is affected by the cut, although wild game is nearly always lower in fat content than beef version – whether biltong or other meat products. Typical values for protein, fat and calorie content for these competing animals is shown below.
• Beef biltong: Probably the best well known biltong outside South Africa this provides, per 25 gram portion, 60 calories, with 1.3 grams of fat and 11.5 grams protein.
• Game; Springbok, less well known to non-South Africans, the Springbok is an extremely successful species of antelope, successful in the sense that it has one of the largest growing populations despite being very tasty indeed. Per 25 grams this variety contains 58.5 calories, with 0.2g of fat and 13.3g or protein.
• Ostrich; classed as game but most commonly sourced from farmed birds, this variety also offers a healthy option – if not for the farmer trying to catch it. Providing 57.3 calories with only 0.6g fat and 12.2g of protein.
It certainly seems that game varieties of biltong come out on top for the weight and health conscious, although beef biltong is still a good choice compared to most other snack choices. With Kudu, Springbok and Ostrich being less easily sourced in the UK, there are other versions of game biltong available.
Venison is the most common game version of biltong favoured by ex-pats and converts alike. This, like the South African game biltong, is considered to be leaner and contain less fat than beef, although lead content can be higher – go figure.
Ultimately biltong is an extremely healthy, adaptable and healthy basis for a meal. While it can be used as a base for soups or stews it’s an ideal high protein, low fat source of energy for those engaged in active outdoor sports including running, mountaineering, cycling and athletics. The choice between game or beef versions is largely personal and whichever you choose you’ll find it more satisfying than a dusty old cereal bar and healthier than a pack of crisps!