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What Is Involved in Deer Meat Processing?

Deer meat processing involves skillful steps: field dressing, skinning, aging, butchering, and packaging. Each stage is crucial for ensuring the venison's quality and safety. From the careful removal of the hide to precise cuts that maximize yield and flavor, the process is both an art and a science. Curious about how each step affects your venison's taste? Let's delve deeper.
Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

Deer meat processing is not much different than beef butchering, and the same amount of care should be applied to the carcass. The required removal of the silver skin or sinew of the deer meat is commonly the largest difference between the two. Once the deer is hung and allowed to cool down and bleed out thoroughly, the hide is removed. The fat is commonly trimmed in the first stage of processing deer meat, followed by the removal of the silver skin from the meat. The back straps are commonly removed next in the deer meat processing, followed by the removal of the rear quarters, the rib sections and then the front quarters and neck.

The back straps, or loins as they are most commonly called, are typically butterfly-cut during the deer meat processing. This cut is also commonly the most preferred cut of the venison for many eaters. Occasionally, during some discount meat processing, these loins are saw-cut into sections called chops containing small pieces of backbone and upper rib meat. This is a common practice in some processing plants due to the expediency of the process as compared to hand-cutting and trimming the loin. In some areas where deer chronic wasting disease (CWD) is prone to exist, much of the bone, including the ribs, spine and neck bones, are disposed of and not consumed by humans.

Most deer processing plants make use of the entire animal.
Most deer processing plants make use of the entire animal.

The hind quarters are cut into steaks, roasts and any small pieces are left for burger meat. Commonly chilled to near freezing, the large quarters are placed in band saws at the deer meat processing plant and sliced into the desired cuts. Round steaks and roasts are the largest cuts from the hind quarters. The ribs are trimmed of all fat and silver skin and sectioned into small packages. The front legs can be cut into individual steaks or left whole as roasts, depending on the wishes of the customer.

Deer sausage is a common way of processing lower quality cuts of venison.
Deer sausage is a common way of processing lower quality cuts of venison.

In most deer meat processing plants, nothing is left to waste. Small pieces of meat from the brisket, rib and neck areas are used to create burger or stew meat. The hide is also sold, tanned and used for leather. A popular option when using a deer meat processing plant is to have the entire or partial animal turned into venison jerky, summer sausage or pepper sticks. This option is a good way to utilize the entire animal while feeding friends and family during parties, holiday meals or simple get-togethers.

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Discussion Comments

gravois

I processed my deer at home for a while but all the gore involved with the butchering process attracted a lot of vermin to my shed. I ended up with a terrible mouse problem and I would see all kinds of other animals prowling around there at night.

I decided to send my meat off elsewhere. It's not much of a loss. I never really like cutting deer meat in the first place. I am a hunter not a butcher.

summing

My dad showed me how to butcher a deer when I was a kid and I have never seen the need to take one to a processing plant. The butchering process is not as hard as some people make it out to be but processing a carcass can be more expensive than they make it out to be. I see no reason to pay the money for someone to do something I can do perfectly well on my own.

tigers88

I love to hunt and I usually end up with at least three or four deer at the end of any season. I used to butcher the meat myself but it got to be such a hassle and such a mess that I started taking it to a processing plant in the next town over. I wish I would have done this sooner.

Its great because I get all the best parts butchered out carefully for me and then all the rest gets turned into some really quality deer sausage. None of the meat gets wasted and I have more occasions to use it then ever before.

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    • Most deer processing plants make use of the entire animal.
      By: awhelin
      Most deer processing plants make use of the entire animal.
    • Deer sausage is a common way of processing lower quality cuts of venison.
      By: aboikis
      Deer sausage is a common way of processing lower quality cuts of venison.
    • Small pieces of meat from the brisket, rib, and neck may be used to make burgers.
      By: PhotoEd
      Small pieces of meat from the brisket, rib, and neck may be used to make burgers.
    • The hind quarters of a deer may be cut into steaks.
      By: Brent Hofacker
      The hind quarters of a deer may be cut into steaks.