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February 28, 2008

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Discussion Topic: The Case of the Missing Venison

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
A deer processor in Butler County faces 28 violations of the state Game and Wildlife Code related to the alleged illegal taking of deer and the theft of legal game from private hunters and meat designated for the poor.

“This man stands accused of stealing from hard-working hunters - both their venison and their money - and sadly, people in need,” [Wildlife Conservation] Officer [Randy] Pilarcik said.

Mr. Kielty faces penalties of up to $22,700, and the possible loss of his hunting and trapping privileges for up to 65 years . . . .

I don’t want to suggest for a minute that most game processors are crooks. The vast majority I’ve dealt with have been great. But I’ll be honest: There’s been a time or two when my box of white packages seemed a little light, and I’ve wondered—right or wrong—what the butcher was having for dinner that night. You?



I have gotten to the point that I am reluctant to use any processor. I don't wish to stereotype all processors, I know it is a tough job with low margins, but I honestly think most processors butcher a large number of deer at one time and then divide up the meat. Every time I have taken an animal in for processing I end up with a disproportinate amount of meat basd on the size of the animal--sometimes too much, sometimes too little.

My main concern with such a practice is not necessarilly that I am being shorted, but rather, I worry about how other hunters handle their kill before it arrives at the processor.



You hit the nail on the head!

I had a friend whose family ran a meat shop. They pocketed $50k every year processing deer.
To maintain their USDA approval and clearance, they MUST clean their plant BEFORE and AFTER processing deer, or, have a completely seperate processing area for the game.
Since this shop only had one "area" they closed for the day at 5PM then cleaned the plant and started processing deer!
I asked my friend one time how they kept everybody's deer seperate. His reply, "We don't. Each deer is weighed, estimated as to what it will make (ground, sausage, jerky and such). Then the appropriate amount is packaged and released to each customer. There were enough people who didn't pick up their deer that they could easily make up any shortage! Not only that, any deer not picked up after 30 days could be picked up by anyone for the price of processing!

I process my own!



I'm one of the lucky ones who actually enjoys processing my deer. It gives me something to do and I feel it's away of giving the animal respect because you know you're the one getting the meat from the animal and not wasting any of it. But my son goes to the processor (I won't do his deer to) and he has luckily not had problems that I know of with meat mixing. So my point is as many of you said it's not all of the processors that have had these "mix ups".



I always kind of thought that was what was going on.

I too prefer to process my own game, but I live in one state and hunt in another, so during unusually warm periods it is convenient to go to a processor who can flash freeze for transport.


I took a 76 pound deer to one processor and two 80 pound deer to another. I got more meat from the 76 pound deer than I did the two 80 pound deer combined...
Is that odd to anyone else?


If my math skills are as good as they used to be I would say that does seem odd. So my solution would be to take your business elsewhere or try processing, it's not to bad once you get good at it.



You guy only know half. While in a local processor dropping off a deer, the processor got a phone call. Someone told him there has been a deer hit up the road. He hung up, told me he had to go and get the deer because he needed it to fill his sausage orders.

This was three years ago. Needless to say, I process my own deer now.

For those interested, he charges 5 bucks a pound for link deer sausage.


Hey, I know this goes back more than 50 years, but if there was road kill, my school hot lunch program had meat.

In MI, its illegal to sell venison. If you run a processing plant, and someone doesn't pick up a deer, your only option is to donate that meat to a charity or eat it yourself.


I know this is way off topic, but I just got an email of a black white tailed deer. It's the strangest thing I ever saw. They say it is more rare then the albino deer. It was taken in Michigan. Wish I could show everyone the picture.


The laws changed in Texas too a few years back Yoop.
My buddy used to sell unclaimed deer to the public for the processing fee. They (fortunately, I think!) got out of the deer processing business because the state laws changed. An unclaimed deer had to either be destroyed or donated.
I quit going to a processor when it cost me $75 to pick up my deer and it was all in one large grocery sack!



How did you all learn to process your own? Any tips?


processing game yourself is straight forward and you only need a couple good knives and freezer bags or paper. I started doing my own after taking in young deer and getting rank smelling meat and sausage back. they were doing the bulk processing method. anyway, I debone and package all the good cuts in size to suit your needs. the rest I debone to grind etc. in a rush I freeze whole deboned legs and grind or cut up later or roast whole for large group. I once found a large five year old moose roast in a freezer. after trimming off half an inch all around it tasted good as ever. If I cannot hang an animal I cut it up and leave it in the fridge for a week before freezing. Now we have meat processing nights. Its not that difficult and lots of info out there. good luck.


I believe that Michigan United Conservation Clubs has a DVD on processing your big game. Its primarily for whitetails, but I don't think there's much difference. Also, if you're on a real budget, www.michigan.gov/dnr/ also has processing instructions, but I believe that its all text.


Sorry, I responded to you albertahunter, I meant to respond to Midnight Banjo.

Ed J

From my grandfather, however that might not work for you. First go to Cablas, Gander Mountain and others and get a book on how to process your game animal. Some small gun shops even have them. Most shooters are hunters.

Try it with a rabbit,not so much wasted if you botch the job.


I learned from my grandfather, dad, friends and necessity!
Had an old landlord show me how to make breakfast sausage!
I try to skin and refridgerate asap. Then comes the tedious job of cleaning, cutting, boning and grinding! I love it and wouldn't have it any other way!



I've done lots of rabbits, pigs, tree rats and the like... Never attempted deer. I'll check around and see what I can come up with. Thanks!

eldon pulfer

Do you think a proccessor who has a two hundred deer to cut up can afford to do the thorough job that tasty meat deserves? I've been doing my own for twenty-nine years and haven't been disappointed. I have a spare refrigerator that I put my quartered deer in. I can get two small deer or one large deer (quartered and in tubs)in the frig. I proccess it in my garage where it is cold! If the temps are up I will only do one piece at a time and return it to the frig as soon as possible. I try to remove as much fat as possible even the smaller pieces between the muscles. You can be as picky as you desire, unlike your local proccessor who's time is money! I don't bother removing the silver skin from my steaks,roasts or soup meat - contrary to popular belief - I think it adds flavor! The silver skin may bind your grinder up when making hamburger so don't put too much through at one time. My least favorite piece to tim out used to the neck because it has a lot of small muscles interlaced with fat. I now leave it as a whole roast and it is very tender! Regrettably, if CWD gets to my area I may have to give up my neck roast. My other least favorite pieces were the shanks. They have smaller muscles covered with silver skin. My grinder hated them. Now I debone them and divide them into one or to packages for "deer shank' soup. I cut this meat into one inch cubes brown and the boil until tender. This makes excellent soup,stew, or chunky chili.
I've spent alot of cold days in my garage cutting up my deer but I know its all mine and it's quality meat!


Midnight Banjo:
That deer processing DVD is available at www.mucc.org and when you get there, click onto their MUCC Marketplace tab. Its $21.95, but will help a lot if you're stumped.


I'd love to process my own game but unfortunately I have to get my deer checked for CWD before doing this. I find it easiest to just get a processor/butcher to do this as it is far less of a drive than it is to the nearest place to check for CWD. I've suspected for years that the venison I get back processed isn't the deer that I harvested.


Never again willi go to a mass processor...I had to learn the hard way that which i already new. i spend too much time and energy takin care of the carcass to end up with someone elses meat. I regretably havent taken the plunge and knocked my own down yet....but its coming...soon. Just need the grinder now.

I take mine to a friend that runs a local meat shop...he cuts mine and 4-5 other guys deer on the side and does each seperate...best quality i have seen in my 38 years.

Midnightbanjo, Penn state put out a real good informational DVD covering whitetail from gutting to wrapping. It cant be too overly hard. Just seems to be tedious and time consuming...especially when your green like me.

You kill it, YOU grill it. It aint right to have somebody else do it for you. Give the critter the respect he deserves and take all the meat off it yourself. That way you are sure nothing is wasted...and the meat was kept cool and remains edible. I wouldn't want my tasty meat doe getting mixed in with a full-rut 6 year old buck that was dogged 5 miles before being shot-YUCK!

josh from maine

first and only deer i ever brought to a processor was my last. the tenderloins came out tougher than the rest of the steak and it was just a really poor cutting job. ever since then i have cut up my own deer and i'm never going back


A few years ago I used to cut deer with my brother-in-law (it was his business.) We kept each deer separate (200+ for a 3-week season,) were very careful with the meat and made sure that what you brought in was what you hauled away. Sadly he's now gone but his son kept the business going and operates it the same way and rarely has anyone been dissatisfied (except the greenhorns who'll bring in a 90 lb. deer and expect to get 89 lb. of meat to take home.)
It's good when you find an honest processor.



I know there are honest processers out there! One of the best I know, if they will allow me to post a business name, is Tip Top Meats on US Hwy 79 on the west side of Taylor, Texas. They make a link sausage that will absolutely make you hurt yourself! It's awesome!


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