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March 31, 2008

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Discussion Topic: Is Your Venison Safe To Eat?

From KFYR-TV news in North Dakota:

Doctors say deer meat has a lot of benefits. It’s lean and low in cholesterol. But something deadly could be hiding within. Dr. William Cornatzer conducted CT scans on 100 pounds of venison collected from dozens of different sources and was shocked to find high levels of lead in about 60% of the meat.

And from the Bismarck Tribune:

Packages of ground venison donated to food pantries through the Sportsmen Against Hunger program tested "strongly positive" for lead, prompting the [North Dakota] Department of Health to urge pantries not to use or distribute the venison.

Cornatzer said he also tossed the remaining venison out of his freezer.

"I hate to admit it, but I did. I am not consuming it" he said Thursday. "There is lead in meat that does not have blood marks in it. It’s not like lead. It’s like lead dust."

Cornatzer, a hunter, says he’ll still target deer with his .270 next fall, but with lead-free bullets offered by Barnes, Federal, or Nosler. Meanwhile, the state Department of Health lead program coordinator says she needs to see more research—and will eat the venison in her freezer for now.

So, will this report have any affect on whether you eat the venison in your freezer, or what type of bullets you use next year?



Okay, I'm lost on this one!
From about 1976 to about 1998, I marked trees for cutting with paint. No matter what brand of paint, they all contained lead. We would come out of the woods with orange faces. If you blew your nose, the kleenex was orange. Many of my friends marked trees, well into their 80's, using these same paints. I have never heard of any forester suffering ill effects from this paint.

Now, to the immediate situation. Was this lead contamination a direct result of the shot, or are deer ingesting lead by some other means? If that's the case, we have much bigger problems than just eating our own venison!

As I understand it, lead is a much greater problem for immature of any species than adults. We know there are very serious problems for children that ingest lead paint.

I hope that they can tell us more about the problem, and the sources of this lead contamination. I can't believe that is all coming from the gunshot.

Chris in TX

I dunno, maybe I'm just paranoid, but something doesn't seem right about this. And this study coming out so close on the heels of California banning lead bullets...


According to the two stories posted, it is all coming from the bullet, whose heat and energy cause it to partially liquify on impact, contaminating more meat than might be expected. I don't think anyone's suggesting that a deer hit in the neck will have contaminated hind quarters, but may be likely to have contaminated front shoulders, for example.
I'm all for more research, but this is potentially quite scary. Yes, lead poisoning is worse in children but also remains a serious concern for anyone of any age.
This is no time for a knee-jerk reaction from those of us who have a vested interest in the continued use of lead. (I'm not referring to your post above, Yoop, but to the ones I suspect are forthcoming.) Like it or not (and most of us do not ), there continue to be more and more reasons to stop using lead in all hunting and fishing.
Again, I think more research is needed in this case, but I'm beginning to think it might be time to just bite the bullet--so to speak--and make the move to nontoxic across the board.
I shot a buck through the front shoulders with a lead bullet last fall. In light of this article, I will not be feeding any of that meat to my two young kids. They'll now be getting meat exclusively from my other two bow-kills.


From the story:

"Sandi Washek, the lead program coordinator for the state Department of Health, is waiting on the science.

"We're still looking at it. There are no real studies, We can't say 'yea' or 'nay' on that one. The science is not there. We have to look at what's out there," she said Thursday.

She also plans to continue eating the venison she processes at home."

Right now, the story borders on alarmist, lacking scientific information and scientific analysis. Namely:

1. Testing "strongly positive" is not a scientific conclusion. Is this a case of a journalist writing about that of which they know nothing?

2. The Health Dept. is only "urging" pantries to consider tossing the meat. They admit there is no current scientific basis to justify discarding the meat.


I think more testing is necessary to prove/disprove the findings.

It may have been an isolated incident for all we know. But...I wouldn't ignore it just because my personal agenda says it can't be true.

Let the meat be retested and let other states do some testing and let's see what comes about.



Immediately on the heels of the "lead" bullet ban in California, other "ammo" bans have reared their ugly heads, basically backing up the fact that once the anti-hunting faction had created a toe hold, they stepped up to bat and began swinging for the bleachers!
It was then that the wildlife biologists began explaining that even though there was definitely some "lead" from "gut-piles", the leading cause of "lead" was environmental and had "absolutely nothing" to do with the lead in bullets!
It seems as if "Chicken Little" is running about without an umbrella, once again!



Bubba, yoiu say, "Once the anti-hunting faction had created a toe hold, they stepped up to bat and began swinging for the bleachers!"
But this clearly didn't come from the antis. Dr. Cornatzer is a hunter himself, he admits that he was surprised by the findings, and readily agrees that more testing is needed.
Jstreet is right: "It may have been an isolated incident for all we know. But...I wouldn't ignore it just because my personal agenda says it can't be true."
Let's get the testing done and go from there.


I can't believe that lead could be windborne! I know that it occurs naturally. I wonder if it occurs naturally in topsoil and is taken up by root systems, then is eaten while in the leaf or blade of grass.

I suppose that windborne distribution is possible if the doctor were hunting fairly close, and downwind of some type of plant that uses lead. Even if that were the case, boy, there are so many variables in this situation. Where do you start? Bullet placement is the obvious contaminating factor. Another possibility would be a chemical analysis of the area where the contaminated deer were shot. After that, I'm stumped!

Bowhunters...1 shot, 1 kill, zero lead. I love Bambi meat!

Blue Ox

So you get a little lead with your bambi, so what? We've all probably been eating it for years without a clue and no harm done.
I'll take venison any day instead of that shit you buy at the supermarket.


Man with no name:
Someone once said "Its not the arrow, its the Indian".
For someone like myself, to start bowhunting at 58, would be a lot harder than going to a shop and buying a bow and some arrows. If I switched from rifle to bow, the last thing I'd have to worry about is lead in my venison. My big concern would be finding vegetarian recipes.


I'd like to see the results of sending standard processed meat through the CT scanner. This experiment had no control to estimate background sensitivity and comparison with a "standard" of treatment.


I haven't died yet, but I've always used the Barnes X bullet. But are we sure the lead is actually coming from the bullet fragments, or is it already there?


There are several things in the story that bother me, as posted above, what is "strongly positive" ?
Exactly what were the lead levels found? I think this is knee jerk comments, without any scientific basis. It reminds me of a few years back when they changed the pressure treated wood from copper arcentate to ACQ, the testing was flawed that I observed. They took soil samples from beneath a deck that was constructed out of pressure treated wood, Then claimed that the soil had traces of arcentate in it? Well it should I saw that deck being built, it was assembled on sight, witha all of the wood cut in place, so the soil under the deck was filled with pressure treated saw dust so of course it would have arenate in it! if it didn't I would be suprised, But this was "there smoking gun" I attemped to talk to the test takers, but they had already determined their conclusions, so now we have a presue treated product that is no safer and rots out the nails and screws that are used on it. They have to be triple galvanized and there is no long term study that they will not still corrode.

So I don't buy the lead story.
Sorry for the typos it is late and my glasses are down stairs!


Being an engineering student, I find it hard to believe that a semi-premium bullet like a nosler partition, core-lokt ultra, or any other bonded lead bullet, which are made specifically to hold together, could contaminate an entire deer quarter. The only way I see that happening is if someone was hunting with a varmint bullet or cheaply made jacketed hollow point or soft point. Now, I'd love to be able to do all my hunting with barnes TSX's or winchesters new bullets and the like. Those bullets are nearly perfect in performance and accuracy, but the little bastards are expensive!

Also, my one question is what about lower velocity lead projos: muzzle loaders, slug guns, and revolvers - do they have the same potential to contaminate. All I know is, if study continues and the threat is real, It may be time to invest in some reloading equipment, because it's painful to know every time you cut one loose at the range sighting in your rifle, your burning up 2 dollars or more in premuim ammo every shot.


or we could all just take head shots - haha


Here we go again!

Crows, condors, vultures and now deer have measurable (though no specific concentrations have been quoted anywhere I have seen) lead in their bloodstreams and muscle tissue. Folks think about this; if I shoot a deer and it dies within a relatively short moment how in the hell is lead going to circulate to the muscle mass? Sorry but I am not buying the bullet as the cause of this. Lead dust is not osmotically passed through muscle membrane that quickly, even supposedly liquified lead isn't migrating like that. If there is lead in the meat of an animal it is because it was ingested, inhaled or absorbed BEFORE the animal died. I would put my money on ingested. Environmental lead that has entered local vegitation and has been ingested. We would be best to study this a lot more before we put the blame on our bullets, slugs and buckshot. Probably one easy way is to shoot a few deer with bow and arrow and test their venison; betting odds have it that we find lead (along with a few other nasties) if we have found lead in gun shot deer from the same population.


Gotta go with "BlueOx" on this one.

Myself and kids could be ingesting 300 grains of lead with each meal of venison....and i will lay heavy odds its STILL better for me and my family than that mass produced garbage they hock at wally whirled....NEVER had a recall for my venison steak!!



i just recently met Dr. Cornatzer on a sheep hunt that I guided. He is a passionate outdoorsman that hunts and fishes everyday that he can just like most of us that are interested in these recent findings. He is not out to hurt hunting or anyone else within the hunting industry. As a physician / scientist he is morally obligated to release these findings no matter what the outcome. As he explained the issue to me it was out of his concern for my 4 children that eat the venison that i harvest every year. The lead levels can be harmful to children. As a father i have a moral obligation to do what is best for my family. Everyone that hunts deer has the choice to hunt with bullets that contain lead and consume the meat. There is no alarmist agenda for Dr. Cornatzer or anyone that he is knowingly associated with. You all can still make your own choices no matter what the data suggests. To everyone that says there is no scientific proof that the lead issue is true, i have not seen any data suggesting that it is FALSE. Everyone raised hell when we were all forced to switch from lead to steel for waterfowl. Did you stop waterfowl hunting? Did the anti hunting groups prosper from the switch to steel? Does it hurt hunting because some of us will switch to a bullet without lead and process our own venison? Those of us that accept these findings will still be buying bullets and spending the same amount of money on hunting thaT we did before this study was released. I do not see where this issue will hurt the sport that we love or the industry that supports hunting.

Dr. Thomas

I have a Ph.D in enviromental biology and I love little deer. I dont't think all of you monsters should be shooting them in the first place, let alone eating their cute little muscles. You can substitute soy for most recipes that call for meat and it is better for the environment. Deer keep polution down by filtering toxins in the air with their fur and we need to have a planet earth for my grandbabies. Another interesting point I bet you never thought of is this: if you are eating the deer, what are all of the coyotes going to eat? You are disrupting the food chain and allowing valuable animals like the coyote to starve. So the question isn't whether or not is it safe for you to eat it, the question is: Is it safe for our environment? and the answer is no, in fact it is fatal and will almost certainly cause global warming to increase by a minimum of 27% over the next two decades if you keep it up. Think about that!!!!


Dr. Thomas:
Some day, I hope you get a drivers license and acquire a car or truck. In your case, I would recommend a 3/4 ton truck or SUV. Also, replace the front bumper with a deer guard. You'll need it! Also, when you get car insurance, ask the agent to drop his/her drawers and kiss the butt.

Forestry is big business in many parts of North America. We won't need much wood if we replace wood products with plastic. We just need oil wells and strip mines everywhere to supply that industry. The upside, of course, is that we can let all of the deer run free!


Creed: I don't argue for a moment that there is lead and probably other heavy metals in venison taken from many areas of the country. Not too many years ago there were advisories not to eat organ meat from deer taken in parts of New York State due to Cadmium and Molybdenum present in potentially toxic concentrations. I'm not aware of any Molybdenum or Cadmium bullets on the market! Acid rain brings with it Sulphur, Aluminum, Mercury, and Copper; proably also the Lead, Cadmium and Molybdenum. The concern I have is that in blaming bullets, slugs and buckshot we are failing to consider the real culprit and real solutions.
These elements are present in groundwater, hydrostatically pumped into vegetation and therefrom ingested by all the herbivores and omnivores in the region. The Lead may suspend more readily in the blood and therefor be present in muscle tissue while the other elements collect in kidney or liver.

The move to non-toxic shot was due to loons, waterfowl and other fauna ingesting Lead pellets from pond bottoms. This damaged the eggs of the birds and drastically affected reproductive success. The move away from Lead shot and now Lead fishing sinkers has already resulted in better breeding success for the birds mentioned.

I would hope that moving toward cleaner air from both point source and non-point source polluters will result in healthier deer and other animals!


Fellas, it's pretty well documented and proven that lead bullets tend to leave a lot more lead in our meat than we can see. Even many of the bonded bullets tend to leave those particles. The question is whether it does any damage to us as we consume it.

In CA, the argument against lead bullets carried weight because the condors were consuming this same lead, but their digestive systems couldn't process it and allowed it to accumulate. The human digestive system processes impurities and toxins a bit better, so most of the crap we ingest passes on through. Do we still retain any?

Research on this has been done already, notably among many of the Canadian indian tribes, where subsistence hunting provides a large percentage of a meat-heavy diet. And yes, there does seem to be a slightly higher incidence of lead in their systems and related effects. However, similar studies among other groups has not shown the same correlation.

Personally, I'd love to see more research on this topic before I declare it total B.S. I've been eating game meat, mostly shot with lead, for the better part of my lifetime. I eat it now at least two to three times a week. As of my last physical exam, everything seems to be running just fine.

If there is a risk, then I'd like to know about it. But like so many "surprise" discoveries, I think this one is probably much ado about nothing.

As to whether it's a ploy by the antis... I doubt it seriously. However, they're entirely likely to pick up on it and use it in their arsenal of propaganda... another real good reason to get some valid science and research behind it.


My question is not whether there is Lead or any other element present in venison; there seems little doubt that certain populations have been found with Lead in their meat. How it gets there is the issue. Same as with the different birds. They are definitely ingesting Lead and other toxins from gut piles (hence the higher concentrations during hunting season) but is it Lead from bullets or from environmental pollution? To the best of my knowledge there is no credible study which explores this question; it would be relatively easy to set up. Either using pigs or as I said earlier measure meat from bow kills (or even road kill) as well as meat from gun kills.

I'd be anxious to see the results of such a study! Until then my bet is that it is environmental. All the more reason to push for more enforcement of the existing clean air and clean water laws.

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