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June 05, 2008

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Discussion Topic Update: Minnesota Finds More Lead In Venison

As officials from seven Midwest states met in Minnesota to discuss lead in venison, yet another test—from the host state--reveals contaminated meat.

From the Star Tribune:

Minnesota officials have tested 1,239 samples of venison donated to food shelves last fall and found that 273, or 22 percent, had evidence of lead bullet fragments. . . .

[T]he Minnesota Department of Natural Resources collected and tested 123 samples from DNR employees who processed their own deer themselves. They found about 18 percent had some lead contamination.

"I was shocked,'' said Lou Cornicelli, DNR big-game program manager and a deer hunter whose own venison had some lead contamination. "I'm pretty careful how I trim around wound channels. . . .''

"This isn't a state issue, it's a national issue,'' DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten said. "It's not going away.''

Does this latest test make you more concerned about the venison in your freezer?



Why is everyone suprised? I mean, the bullets are doing what they were designed to do. There's been lead shrapnel as long as there's been lead bullets. We're all still here! Come on, you've never spit out a piece of lead while eating game? It's not a national issue and it didn't just appear. It's not really a public health issue, it's a hunter issue. If hunters are concerned about lead in thier meat, they can switch to lead free ammo. No need to get excited about. I'm waiting for the results of the 783 blood lead tests to come back before I'll even think about get wound up.


It doesn't concern me about the meat in my freezer.

Ingestion of metallic lead is the least likely means of dangerous toxicity, and our bodies pass the majority of it relatively quickly, unlike the carrion birds (e.g. the Condor) who may retain the lead in their crops for significant amounts of time.

However, as a hunter it does concern me quite a bit about the future of our sport, as this information is almost certain to drive more bans on lead ammunition like the one I've been blogging about here in California.

I don't doubt that it's prudent to move away from lead ammunition, and the hunting community and industry need to be proactive in moving towards that end... but with the public in a panic and overreaction from government agencies, there's an awful high risk that lead-free requirements will be forced down our throats even before suitable alternatives are available for all of our guns (e.g. the rimfire ammo ban in CA's "condor zone").

Very little research has been done, and what has been done has been inconclusive about the impacts on humans of ingesting lead from wild game meat. At this point, I think it's safe to say that the risk is minimal.

The real risk from lead ammunition is inhalation at firing ranges... both of lead dust from the bullets AND from the lead stabilizing agents in the primers.


Pooh-poohing data that doesn't fit your agenda just seems foolish to me.

When this story first broke, so many people just immediately said it's just "anti-hunting" garbage. Now you have pro-hunting people pointing out the same type of evidence and yet many will still dismiss it as voodoo science.

Maybe this isn't a widespread problem, maybe it's a certain bullet type that's causing the problem (not brand, type).

But dismissing it as a "minimal" risk before all the data is in doesn't make sense to me @ all.

I wouldn't throw out my venison from last year @ this point, but I will be following this story and hope that some conclusive evidence is presented before next hunting season.

Lead in any amount and from any source is especially harmful for small children and pregnant women. I believe I'll wait for all the facts to come out before deciding whether this is risky or not.




Thats just the point, there is no data that supports that this a health issue of any significance. Lead's a poison, so's flourine. I still use flourinated toothpaste. It's matter of the type of lead and the dose. Metallic lead is the least likely to cause a problem. It simply just passes thru the digestive tract to fast.

Is there lead in the meat. No arguement. Is it a problem, maybe?

The only study ever done (to my knowledge)that addresses exposure to lead from casual ingestion of venison is currently being conducted. Lets wait for the results before turning it to a national feeding frenzy.

I still don't understand why it should be a concern to the non-hunting public? If I was concerned and my wife was pregenant, I certainly wouldn't feed her contaimanted meat. Why would a non-venison eating person even care if I eat lead containing meat?

After being in the lead and asbestos business for 25 years, I personally think this a big to-do about nothing. Not enough exposure.



Maybe it is much ado about nothing. But, I'll keep listening with an open mind before I dismiss it as non-threatening to my health.



Keep a eye out for more studies until then will keep eating venison.



I will also keep an open mind, and continue to eat my hard earned venison. Comments like "This isn't a state issue, it's a national issue,'' DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten said. "It's not going away.'' are alarmist when there isn't evidence, one way or the other.

As for "Pooh-poohing data that doesn't fit your agenda just seems foolish to me", I challenge you to find any data, ANY data, that eating a reasonable amount of venison shot with a lead bullet has or will cause health effects. If you find it, let me know, cause I've been looking.

I resent your implication that I have an agenda. I have no agenda, I've gone lead free because its the law where I hunt. I didn't like it and I still don't like it.

I applaud North Dakota public health officals and the CDC for conducting the first EVER study of this kind.

Shoddy science is shoddy science. Some dermatologist showing X-rays and crying wolf is not the CDC.

Minnesota DNR should wait for the results before releasing alarmist statements.



Just as you are complaining about "alarmist" statements from people involved directly with the testing as not providing evidence, your intial statement, and I quote "Very little research has been done, and what has been done has been inconclusive about the impacts on humans of ingesting lead from wild game meat. At this point, I think it's safe to say that the risk is minimal."

So the testing that your site is "inconclusive"? If that's the case how can you say with confidence that the risk is "minimal"?

Bottom line, you don't know and the people who are concerned don't know for sure either. It's time to let the testing be done and let the true results start to show. Then we aren't dealing with opinions, but fact.

Again, it may be much ado about nothing. I for one will wait for the evidence to come in and not decide based on emotion or "inconclusive" testing.

As far as resenting my "implication", reread my initial post. It was meant as a broad statement concerning everyone who blew the intial concerns off as anti-hunting rhetoric, it wasn't directed @ you or California Hunting Today (your email address).



Ahhh, Jim?

I'm Dan, not Phillip.

I did say the statement by DNR was alarmist. I sorta agree with Philip, but I too am waiting for the results, and will be the first to eat my words if there is a proven risk.

There's much data to support lead poisoning in an occupational evironment, but thats really comparing apples and oranges. Different kind exposures, times and concentrations.

I'm curious, I didn't see Phillip post an e-mail address?


First of all, research was done on a group of the Cree Indians in Canada several years ago, during the flare-up that preceded the ban on lead shot for waterfowl hunting. Similar questions were being asked about the effects of lead ammo on human health. The Cree were primarily subsistence hunters, and the majority of their diet was made up of game and fowl... all shot with lead ammunition of one kind or another.

The results, buried under hundreds of pages of reports and findings boiled down to two things. One, there was certainly some residual lead in the teeth and hair of some of these people, but there were no identifiable symptoms of lead toxicity. Two, the issue bears more investigation.

I agree with that second finding. It DOES bear more investigation. My mind is definitely open to the possibility. But to call it a threat to the public health is irresponsible overreaction.

Lead ammunition is not a new source of lead in our food supply. Hunters and their families have been ingesting it for generations, literally, without ill effects. If there were an epidemic of lead poisoning among hunters and their families, it would have come out long ago. It's just not happening, and it's hardly likely to suddenly start now.

I'm not generally much of a fan of conspiracy theory, but the whole thing, with the Peregrine Fund pushing this fear down the throats of ignorant lay people, reeks of an agenda... and that agenda has nothing to do with the preservation of a giant buzzard or with the health of America's hunters.

The intent appears to be to instill unreasoning fear in the general public, and further a negative attitude toward hunting.

Public Servants like the MN DNR and politicians are duty-bound to react to this kind of fear for their constituency's sake, and they'll likely do so with typical political heavy-handedness. Throw out the baby with the bathwater...that'll solve it.

At the very least, they'll stop the hunter donations to food banks, eliminating one of the most public and visible ways hunters can show some value to the rest of society.

At worst, they'll jump on the lead-ban bandwagon to encourage and likely enact a lead ammunition ban. The results, for hunters and our sport, will be catastrophic. The industry is not ready for the change.

Am I done? Not quite, because here's the deal.

I don't disagree with the general idea that we should get rid of lead ammunition. It's proven to be tough on carrion eaters and it can propagate through the food chain. It's also tough on the environment, to the groundwater and to the air. And yeah, despite my belief to the contrary, it might prove to be dangerous to people.

But that movement needs to be coordinated and led by hunters and the shooting sports industry, not by organizations hiding under the guise of "environmentalism". It needs to be phased in, so that alternative ammunition is available BEFORE lead is banned.

The biggest problem I have with California's lead ammo ban is the fact that there are now many hunters out there who have no legal way to hunt with their rifles or handguns, simply because they can't get lead-free ammunition for them.

Apologies to Dave Hurteau and Field and Stream for using this blog as my soapbox, but this issue has blossomed into a real nightmare, and folks who thought it would be limited to California had better open their eyes and get out of bed.

As to not posting my email address, I don't post my email address on public websites, but anybody who wants to contact me or wants to discuss this more can find my blog simply by clicking the link on my screen name. I've got plenty to say on the topic there, too.


I guess I have been ingesting lead for many years (tastes good anyway). I won't be eating lead anymore, I switched to solid copper bullets about 6 years ago.
They haven't mandated lead free where I hunt yet, but, I prefer the performance of solid copper.



There is a difference between lead shot and microscopic pieces of lead from bullets. How many piece of lead shot do you think people could ingest without realizing it? Microscopic pieces of lead from fast moving bullets is a totally different scenario. A person could be consuming the particles for years and not realize it. It's a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Both are fruit, but the similarities ends there.

As for lead subsitutes, barnes makes solid copper rifle, muzzleloader and pistol bullets for most hunting calibers. Winchester has a new e-tip bullet, magtech has an all copper pistol bullet for hunting too. Remington makes a solid copper slug for These are just examples off the top of my head.

Again, I wouldn't throw out my venision from last year and would wait for more testing to be done to determine what (if any) problems this may cause for people ingesting venison.

If people are that concerned, I agree with Vince. Shoot an all copper bullet for hunting. I would offer one more piece of advice. Learn to butcher your own game so you know what you are assured of getting what you killed.



Boy, I butchered that last sentence (pardon the bad pun).

I meant to write:

I would offer one more piece of advice. Learn to butcher your own game so you are assured of getting what YOU killed.




The Cree in the study I mentioned ate game that was shot both with shot pellets and lead bullets. They ingested both pellets and microscopic fragments, just as most of us who have spent a lifetime eating wild game have done... only for them it was almost their entire source of meat. There is a difference, but it's not significant in this case.

You actually help to make my point, in saying that a person could (and most of us have) ingest lead fragments for years without knowing... and without showing any ill effects. This is the fact. People have done so, and continue to do so... and nothing is happening.

The speculation that lead residue and fragments are a public health hazard is way overblown. It is NOT a national health issue. Hunters make up less than 10% of the entire population... so even IF lead residue were a health risk, it hardly amounts to a crisis on the level that it's being made to appear. The fact that hunters and our families have been doing quite well while consuming game killed with lead bullets, for decades, should speak for itself.

By the way, don't presume too much...

I'm very aware of the lead alternative ammo, as I've researched and tested several of them... and I'm also very aware of the challenges in finding it for many calibers... especially if you're looking for factory loads. Try finding non-lead factory ammo for 30-40 Krag, .303, most of the short and ultra-mags, or any of a host of other "non-standard" calibers. You won't find them.

Even worse, try to get some of that ammo in California right now, as the rush is just beginning. There's also been fallout from the lead-in-venison scare, which has increased sales of non-lead ammo to the point where you'll find many suppliers are out of stock and on backorder. If manufacturers can't keep up with demand for one tiny fraction of this state, what do you think is going to happen if the ban spreads across more states... or worse, nationwide? The industry is NOT ready.

Reloaders certainly have more options, but reloaders are a small fraction of the hunting community.

For what it's worth, by the way, I shoot copper in my .325wsm, but I have to reload as that's the only option I have short of ordering custom ammo from someone like Conley Precision. I'm also shooting the Barnes in my .308 and .243. I shoot the Winchester eTips in my 30-06, and I'm working on Barnes loads for my .270, since the best I can get with the factory loads from Federal and Black Hills are about 2" groups at 100 yards... not acceptable to me.

I have also been butchering my own meat since I started hunting, but I know that even with some trimming, I'm still getting residue and fragments.

But this all keeps coming back to the key point. This whole panic is orchestrated, as is the fact that hunters will bicker amongst themselves over this topic. Maybe the whole anti-lead movement came from organizations with good intentions, but those intentions have been coopted and perverted by the intervention of other organizations who have no other aim than to bring hunting to an end by whatever means necessary. It's a public relations war, and we're (hunters) are getting our butts stomped... in large part because too many of us are afraid to step up and call B.S. when it's being rubbed in our faces.

There are good reasons to move away from lead ammo. But the panic coming from North Dakota and Minnesota is not one of them.


Phillip quote:
You actually help to make my point, in saying that a person could (and most of us have) ingest lead fragments for years without knowing... and without showing any ill effects. This is the fact. People have done so, and continue to do so... and nothing is happening.

Just because you aren't feeling ill doesn't mean that you don't have elevated lead levels in your system. What level of lead in your blood is acceptable vs what many venison consumers (may) have?

Again, I wouldn't throw my venison out, but I'm interested to see how the blood level testing comes out and see if it warrants further testing. Until then, if a person is concerned, switch to a lead free ammo and learn to butcher your own deer.

I'm not reaching for the panic button but I won't just ignore this potential problem either.

Have a good day,



Jim and Phillip,

Just so there's no more confusion on my position or who I am.

I'm anti-lead ban, feel that DNR was alarmist, don't use lead ammo anymore (by law), butcher my own and am intensley interested in this debate.

For Phillip, will get in contact with you in reference to Cree study. You make a very nice distinction in your post between subsistence hunting and sport hunting. It's a difference most likely lost on the public.

It's important because there's a direct correlation in the amount of lead ingested. Subistence hunters will be exposed to much more lead than the sport hunter who would, maybe, eat 2 deer a year. And only a small portion of that would have lead. It's a matter of the dose.

We're all waiting for the results of the ND study, done on SPORT hunters.

The questions really begin when the results come back and the massive dissection and interperation begins.

If it's negative and no health effects-then what? No harm-no foul?

If its positive? Will there be a outcry from the PUBLIC to legislate away lead bullets. I believe so. This is a hunter issue, not a public free for all. Hunters are affected, not the non-game eating public. We should have the opportunity to police our own.

I feel that DNR public health service is the right agency and the right approach to this concern.

For Jim,

DNR's comments were alarmist and inappropriate for a government agency tasked with managing natural resources. Once the game is processed, its out of their jurisdiction. And I agree with you, Vince and Phillip.
If your concerned about lead debris in your game, you can chose lead free ammo.

My CHOICE was legislated away from me. I can't use it anymore.

I'm afraid the California folks kicked in the door on sweeping changes on hunting in this country.

First CA, not we're seeing stuff in MN and ND. A friend called last night and told me that AZ is getting pressure to go lead-free from the SAME orginizations that worked in CA and ND. Draw your own conclusions.

We, as hunters, need to aware, educated and make our own decisions. Otherwise, we'll all meet in TX to hunt and wonder how we ended up in the last bastion of sanity.

Dale Reisert

Lets all wait and not jump to conclusions until all the test are done.

I do know some groups have an agenda.

I switched to Barnes all copper bullets many years ago, not because I was concerned about lead but they actually perform better and form a perfect mushroom every time and retain 95% plus of their original weight. Plus other bullet manufactures are also making lead free bullets and shotgun slugs.

But I still use nickel and copper plated lead shot shotgun shells for my turkey loads.

On the lighter side I think there will be a lead shortage anyway and we will forced to go to alternatives with China adding lead to everything they make from toys to food. LOL


Jason N.

Have they tested any deer that were harvested by bow or any deer that died naturally( or road kill). There may be a percentage of lead that deer naturally absorb from their enviroment. This could be making an error in their data that they are not considering.

Jason N.

They should also test freshly harvested deer. Deer could be ingesting lead that is dissolvedin their water source.
Seems that the researchers are targeting the bullet theory.



Depends on which testing your referring to.

The testing being conducted in ND is on people that eat venison shot with lead bullets. We know how that lead got there. The issue is if its in enough quanities to cause adverse health affects.

Testing in CA, on the condor, is ungoing and the birds ARE being poisoned by lead. The issue there, is where it originates. Some are saying its hunters, others say no way.

Both issues are being watched, by both sides. Either way, its causing massive publicity and will ulitmately affect many hunters.


I've heard good things about Barnes and will using them this year, both in the rifle and the shotgun. I didn''t have a choice. It's just expensive enough to deter some.

For example: Spoke with a friend last night that I normally hunt with, in a lead free area. He won't be bringing his rifle this year, just the shotgun. Can't afford lead free ammo for both. That limits where he can hunt. This guys lives and breaths hunting and been doing it for over 30 years.

So, you see, it does affect us all, as a group.



I understand the cost standpoint (as it affects us all), but as with all newer technologies, prices are typically higher @ first and will drop as more ammo companies jump into the fray (whether they are forced to by law, or just consumer demand).




I'm a thinking member of the human race, residing in a country where I should be able to make my own decisions. Decisions based on facts, supported by good evidence.

Someone decided that I was incapable of making a rational decision on my own.

This "someone" stirred up the public with poor science, put a veneer of respectablity on it and passed a law so that I don't have a decison to make anymore.

Its like someone saying "you cant drive a yellow car, because tests prove ...(insert voodoo science here)".

Will ammo prices go down? Probably.

How many of our dwindling population of hunters will we lose as result? I know one.

Sooner or later, as a group, we have to stand up and say enough!

We're losing our hunting heritage, coast to coast, bit by bit, everyday.

This really makes my blood boil, almost makes me want to join the NRA.



There are other reasons why we are losing our hunting heritage.

Number one would be having places to go hunting. Sprawl and leasing are causing more people to quit hunting than any lead ban ever would.

Politicians without a backbone are another huge reason hunting is falling by the wayside. Yet we keep re-electing the same morons in our home cities, states and federal positions and yet wonder why the end result is always the same.

How many times does it take slamming your hand in a car door to figure out that it hurts?



The article was missing important info. How was the venison tested? Is this the same dumb "x-ray" technique that was used by the Peregrine mole? I maintain this is an illegitimate way of screening for lead. The last flare up bore me out as real tests (GC mass spec) showed no lead where the "x-ray" guy said there was.

The second missing fact is the level of lead contamination. You are constantly ingesting lead, it leaches from plumbing (lead free solder is only 98% lead free or something and brass fittings and PVC leach lead) among other sources. I wouldn't doubt there is trace amounts of lead in the occasional deer as there are trace amounts in the environment.


I thought that plumbing used acid flux [or something along those lines] solder which is completely lead free compared to 60/40 solder. I've been wrong in the past and I'll be wrong again however.

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