Preserving Wild Game Meat

Wild game provides wholesome, nourishing food, but it should be handled and preserved carefully to retain quality. Like domestic meat, wild meat is perishable, so care is needed to maintain its safety. This unusually warm weather can pose a food safety threat to your newly harvested game. Here are some tips:

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Care in the Field; Be prepared for the hunt.

  • Remember to bring a sharp hunting knife, a small hatchet, a whetstone or steel, about 12 feet of light rope or nylon cord, plastic bags and clean cloths or paper towels.
  • Bleed, field dress and cool the carcass promptly. The surface of the carcass may be contaminated with bacteria that can spoil the meat unless the growth is stopped by chilling.
  • Clean your hunting knife often with clean water and a cloth to prevent contamination of the meat.
  • Usually it is not necessary to bleed the animal, because the bullet or arrow has caused enough damage to the animal to bleed it sufficiently. However, if the animal is shot in the head it will need to be bled. If the animal is a trophy buck that you plan to mount, do not sever its throat, because this will cause problems during mounting.
  • Cool the animal quickly. Cool the carcass by propping the chest open with a clean stick and allowing air to circulate. Filling the cavity with bags of ice will also enhance cooling.
  • To aid cooling in warm weather, the deer may be skinned if you have provisions to keep the carcass clean. Use ground pepper and cheesecloth to protect the skinned carcass from contamination by flies.
  • Do not allow the carcass to freeze. Freezing may toughen the meat.

Improper temperature is meat’s worst enemy.

Refrigeration temperatures = 32 to 40 F. Meat must be used, further processed or frozen within the following time frame at these temperatures:

  • Venison 3 to 5 days
  • Rabbit, squirrel 1 to 2 days
  • Wild duck, pheasant, goose (whole) 1 to 2 days
  • Freeze meat while it is fresh and in top condition.
  • Select proper freezer wrapping materials. To ensure quality, the wrapping material needs to be moisture/vapor resistant. Be sure to use packaging material designed for freezing. Vacuum packaging of meat before freezing will help maintain excellent quality of the meat.
  • Wrap tightly; pressing out as much air as possible.

Most wild game will keep up to one year frozen without loss of quality.

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For tips on making jerky, sausage or general food preservation recipe ideas, visit the North Dakota State University Extension Service-Burleigh County website at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/burleighcountyextension/food-nutrition-and-health/food-preservation/meat-wild-game or contact Shaundra Ziemann-Bolinske, Family & Consumer Science Agent, at 701-221-6865.

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