Infected Venison meat

When to Pass on Venison

Grant Woods |

My family and I eat a lot of venison each year. In fact, we rarely purchase red meat at the grocery store. Free-ranging wild venison is lean, artificial hormone free, and tasty! Wild deer are amazing healthy critters! One of the reasons they stay so healthy is that they are very selective feeders.

The next time you watch a deer feeding on native or planted forage, notice how often it selects certain leaves/nuts to consume then passing others that appear identical. Some researchers speculate that deer can sense the minerals and vitamins they need for optimum health.

However, deer can and do get sick and/or injured. Hunters rarely notice these injuries unless they are severe or after the harvest when the hunter is dressing the deer. Some injuries, such as a healed broken leg, don’t impact the quality of the meat and the venison is perfect to consume. Many hunters are reporting harvesting deer that show signs of having survived EHD (Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease). Fortunately, the venison from EHD survivors is safe for human consumption as long as the deer does not show signs of any secondary infections.

Other injuries/illnesses may result in an infection. For example, bucks sometimes get gored while fighting. If the antler that caused the gore had dirt or other contaminants on it the wound may become infected. These types of infections can often easily be detected by redness or the presence of pus. When you notice an infection be aware that it could have spread through the body and cause the meat to be unpalatable or even harmful for humans to eat.

Fortunately, most states will issue a replacement tag if a carcass is deemed unfit to consume. If you tag a deer this year that has an obvious infection, make the safe choice and don’t prepare that venison for you or your family to eat.

Venison is a great source of lean meat and very, very few deer ever have an infection. The next time you tag a deer, give it a quick once over to make sure you are providing the same great meat for your family as usual!

Growing and hunting deer together,

Dr. Grant Woods,

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