Food safety: Use sanitary steps when dressing deer

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REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio – To avoid the threat of foodborne illness, such as E. coli and Salmonella, and diseases such as Leptospirosis and Brucellosis, follow these processing guidelines and safety when preparing a deer carcass.

Step-by-step guidelines.

1. Sanitary handling of venison begins with a clean kill and is followed by proper attention to the dressing operation.

Be certain that the deer is properly bled out immediately following the kill. Failure to remove blood from the tissue will slow chilling and cause premature spoilage of the meat.

2. The first rule of sanitary dressing is to avoid any contamination of edible portions of the carcass with materials such as feces, urine, hair, or stomach and intestinal contents.

Before evisceration of the carcass, the anal opening should be rimmed and freed from its attachments inside the pelvis. It should be securely tied before being dropped into the pelvis to prevent escape of fecal material into the body cavity.

3. Continue the field dressing of the deer by opening the midline and removing the thoracic and abdominal viscera.

The actual removal of the viscera from the carcass is a critical phase of the dressing operation, and careless techniques should be avoided in this important operation.

The abdominal viscera needs to be cut free from the carcass attachments without breaking the stomach or intestines open.

Care should also be taken when cutting the esophagus. A tie is advisable to avoid spilling stomach contents into the abdominal cavity.

4. A mandatory requirement at this point is that no contamination can be permitted to remain on the meat. Thorough trimming is the only acceptable means for removing contamination.

Scraping with the edge or back of a knife or wiping with a cloth or towel is an unacceptable procedure.

After the viscera is removed, the inside of the body may be sprinkled with liberal amounts of food grade salt to help inhibit bacterial growth.

5. Next, take steps to cool the carcass as quickly as possible. When outside temperatures are above 40 degrees, hunters may want to pack the body cavity with clean plastic bags of food grade ice.

Food safety guidelines. Hands and tools that come in contact with the deer carcass must be clean.

Chemical sanitizing may be accomplished by immersing clean utensils in a solution of 1 tablespoon of household chlorine bleach (liquid) to 1 gallon of water.

To sanitize hands, first wash with a standard handwashing product and then use 1 teaspoon of a household chlorine bleach (liquid) to 1 gallon of water.

When there is accidental contamination of equipment, utensils or tools, immediate cleanup and sanitation of the equipment with 180-degree water may be advisable.

Frequent hand washing is essential when there is any contact with manure, urine, or intestinal contents.

Smoking and the use of smokeless tobacco should be avoided while dressing the deer carcass to prevent contamination of the meat.

Disease prevention. Diseases, including Leptospirosis and Brucellosis, may be transmitted when body fluids from infected animals come in contact with open cuts or sores on the hand.

Hunters may want to wear protective latex gloves when bleeding and field dressing carcasses.

Lyme disease is not typically found in Ohio’s deer population because the black-legged tick, which carries the disease, is not normally found in Ohio. Deer killed during moderate weather may carry active ticks on their hides.

To lower the risk of contracting Lyme disease, hunters and others who handle deer are encouraged to wear long-sleeved shirts with tight-fitting cuffs, and long trousers tied at the bottom or stuffed into boots.

Medical authorities also suggest “tick checks” when removing the hunting clothes.

More information. For more information additional resources about meat safety during the deer harvest season, contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Division of Meat Inspection at 614-728-6260.

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