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Deer Season

12/7/2011 11:07:37 AM

Tags: deer, venison, butchering deer, Cole Ward


At the recent Mother Earth News fair in Pennsylvania, lots and lots of people asked me about deer. Particularly my experiences processing it. Here’s my take on venison and other wild meats … 

I cut venison for only a very few select people. Why, you ask? I’ve had too many bad experiences with poorly field-dressed animals … or animals that looked like a sieve because of too many shots (think about that for a while). 

I’ve had animals come to me with a cavity full of leaves and deer droppings, or with a full bladder. I’ve seen the outer meat completely hacked up from poor skinning jobs and hair all over everything.  

If you want me to cut your deer, it needs to be properly field-dressed, properly skinned, and properly washed with cold water using a garden hose and a nylon brush - especially the cavity.  

I will not eat venison unless I am the one who processed it. This is true. I’ve seen too many butchers grind the meat with enough hair in it to cough up fur balls. And to think that they then feed the stuff to their kids.  

Venison should be as clean as any meat you buy in your supermarket.  Here in Vermont, the sale and processing of wild game animals is governed by the Fish and Wildlife Department, while the sale and processing of domestic meat animals (cows, pigs, etc.) is governed by the Department ofAgriculture. One department won’t relinquish authority to the other.  

What does this mean? Here’s an example:  if — for instance — I run a retail meat market, I am only allowed to process inspected meats. So if somebody has a beef privately slaughtered on a farm, it cannot come into my meat market for processing. But —and this is a big “but” —I can bring uninspected wild game into that same retail shop and process it any way I want to. Doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense to me.  

I’d much rather eat well-raised beef that is farm-slaughtered than wild game. And what actual good is the inspection law for retail meat markets if I am allowed to use the same table and equipment to cut uninspected wild game?  

I helped a guy a few years ago who got behind on his venison cutting during deer season. I lasted one hour and then left.  

He owned a market but did his wild game in a garage behind the store. He was three weeks into deer season and the grinder hadn’t been cleaned once. It was on a cardboard covered table with two inches of dried ground venison on it. No running water in the shop at all. The place was filthy. And by the way, this was certainly not the only shop I’ve seen that wasn’t cleaned for the entire deer season. 

Just goes to show what some people will do when there is no regulation. I won’t operate that way. If I won’t eat it, I won’t let anyone else eat it. 

They don’t call me anymore. Thank goodness. 

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