How to Safely Process Deer Meat this Hunting Season

Planning to eat venison this hunting season? A registered dietitian offers advice on how to avoid food poisoning and possible COVID-19 found in some deer.

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CLEVELAND – Deer hunting season is back in full swing, and if you’re planning to take part, it’s important to know how to properly field dress the deer and process the meat.

“A lot of times, preparing deer meat is very similar to preparing any other kind of meat that you would have,” explained Beth Czerwony, registered dietitian for Cleveland Clinic. “You just have to be very careful — because understanding that if you are going to go deer hunting, you have to, a lot of the times, prepare the meat in the field.”

Czerwony said if you are going to field dress the deer, you need to avoid nicking any of the organs, which can cause cross-contamination.

And, don’t forget to have sharp tools on hand to help with clean cuts.

Once you get the deer back home, sanitation is just as crucial. You want to make sure you’re wearing gloves and working on a clean surface, otherwise you could risk food poisoning.

Some deer do carry disease, so hunters need to be mindful of that too. COVID-19 has also become a concern. In fact, a USDA study sampled deer from Illinois, New York, Michigan and Pennsylvania and found they had been exposed to the virus.

“They’re not quite sure if it’s a transmission from other wildlife to deer or humans themselves are transmitting it to the deer. The good news is that the deer cannot transmit – if it’s contaminated, if it has that infection – it’s not going to be able to be transferred over to humans,” said Czerwony.

She said if you have never had deer meat before, it’s worth trying. It’s high in protein and low in fat, and it can be cooked in a number of ways. You can make venison burgers, steaks or add it to a stew or chili.


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