Game butchering, not hunting, may be the hard part


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Once hunters have bagged their bucks during hunting season, they still have to decide what to do with their meat.

While some hunters leave the choices to their local butcher, many are finding that they can save money and increase their personal enjoyment by butchering their own deer, according to a food-safety expert in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

Martin Bucknavage, food safety extension associate in the Department of Food Science, said the Venison 101 class, teaches hunters how to remove the primal cuts, how to make sausage and jerky, and even how to create a culinary masterpiece.

For instance, the bottom round from the hind quarter makes an excellent pot roast or can be sliced for making jerky.

Bucknavage said that hunters should keep a few general rules in mind when planning how to butcher their game.

He added it’s important when cooking whole cuts of meat to remember that as you move away from the hooves and horns, the cuts of meat become more tender.

The tender cuts, such as the tenderloin, should be cooked quickly at a higher temperature. For tougher cuts, use low, moist heat to cook the meat more slowly. This helps break down the connective tissue within those cuts. Because of the possibility of E. coli contamination of the meat, it is important that the venison cuts reach a minimum internal temperature of 160 F or higher.

Jerky and canning are two options for venison. However, Bucknavage said it is important to follow standardized USDA guidelines to safely preserve your venison. The USDA guidelines are available online through Penn State’s Food Safety Web site at

Penn State’s Venison 101 Workshop is an intensive one-day, hands-on workshop that demonstrates the proper processing and handling of deer. In this class, students learn and practice food-safety basics and techniques for maximizing the results of their successful hunt. The workshop is offered annually.

For registration information, go to

Penn State’s Department of Food Science offers hunters a wealth of information on the preparation of wild game from the field to the table.

The Field Dressing Deer Pocket Guide — a free, 12-panel publication designed and folded to fit into a shirt pocket — explains how to field-dress a deer safely.

Illustrated in full color, it explains the process of field dressing and also covers important food-safety information for hunters. It is available online at

Proper Field Dressing and Handling of Wild Game and Fish is for hunters and anglers who handle animals, fish and birds in the field. It details the potential risks involved in contaminating the meat or fish while dressing, handling and transporting it.

This free, 12-page, illustrated publication describes the importance of temperature control and gives detailed instructions for safe field dressing and transporting of deer, small animals and game birds.

It is available online at

A companion booklet, Proper Processing of Wild Game and Fish is a free, 20-page publication that describes safe processing techniques for wild game and fish.

Aging, cutting, curing, smoking, canning, and jerky and sausage making are detailed. The importance of temperature control is discussed, and various types of meat thermometers are identified. A final section includes recipes for game birds, fish and venison.

It can be found online at

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