Harvesting your own game meat can be a satisfying way to provide your family with all-natural, wholesome, and flavorful food. However, hunters are responsible for educating themselves on the proper care and handling of game meat in order to protect themselves and their families from food-borne illnesses. 

Before the Hunt: Ensure that you have the following, RopeRubber or disposable glovesSharp hunting knifeGame sawBags for the heart and liver, if desiredGame bagsClean rags, paper towels, or wipesTarps or canvas

During the Hunt: Strive for a clean shot; avoid gut shots, which can result in contamination of the meat with intestinal contents.

Field Dressing:  Wear rubber or disposable gloves while field dressing, skinning, and butchering.  Remove the internal organs as quickly as possible. While gutting, take special care to not puncture the stomach or intestines to avoid contamination of the meat with intestinal bacteria. Clean your hunting knife and other utensils often with clean water and soap.  Use clean towels and clean water to wipe out excess blood from the gutted cavity, then dry as completely as possible with clean towels.  Remember hunting regulations often require that proof of sex (antlers, external genitalia, udder, etc.) remain attached to the carcass.

Cooling:  Cooling wild game to less than 40 degrees F as quickly as possible will slow the growth of bacteria and keep the meat from spoiling.  Ideally this is accomplished by taking the carcass to a cooler on the day of the kill. If this is not possible, the following should be considered:  Good air circulation is important during the cooling process. Keep the carcass out of direct sunlight.  In warm weather, cheesecloth or a lightweight game meat bag may be placed over a skinned carcass as it cools to protect it from flies. Black pepper or food-grade citric acid applied to the carcass may also discourage flies. Placing plastic bags filled with ice inside the chest cavity will help quickly chill down the carcass.

Transport:  Make sure the carcass is clean and dry before transport.  Keep the carcass cool during transport. Keep the carcass out of direct sunlight and allow for adequate air circulation..  With deer and smaller animals, keep the meat clean during transport by leaving the skin on, or by wrapping in meat bags. Make sure the meat is thoroughly chilled before wrapping in tarps or plastic.

Care in the Kitchen:  Frozen meat can be safely thawed in the refrigerator or microwave oven. Meat thawed in a microwave must be cooked immediately. If thawed in the refrigerator, the meat should be cooked within two days.  Most game meat will keep safely for up to five days in the refrigerator. Fowl and ground meat will keep only for two days in the refrigerator.  Do not eat any portions of wild game raw.  Cook wild game meat until the juices run clear. Follow recommended food safety guidelines for cooking temperatures:  All game meat should be cooked to a minimum of 165° F.  Wash your hands with warm water and soap. Wash the knife, cutting board, and other dishes that came into contact with the raw meat in warm, soapy water, and disinfect with a dilute bleach/water solution as follows: 1 tablespoon bleach per gallon of water for stainless steel.  1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water for non-porous surfaces such as tile floors, counter-tops, sinks, and toilets.  1½ cups of bleach per gallon of water for porous surfaces such as wooden floors.

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