Wild Game Requires Proper Handling

Posted: November 17, 2011

Hunting is a popular sport in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It’s one that requires knowledge of proper dressing and handling of wild game to prevent foodborne illness and spoilage of meat.

     The handling of the meat between harvesting, storing and eating can make the greatest difference in flavor and taste. Below are some tips for the proper care and handling of game from North Dakota State University Cooperative Extension.
     Bird or beast, the sooner you dress and cool game the better. Clean game birds and animals like domestic animals. However, since most are shot, it is important to remove all blood-shot areas, removing shotgun pellets as well.
     Because meat spoils quickly if it is warm and moist, you need to "gut" the animal promptly. Keep the animal as clean as possible and cool it promptly and thoroughly. If the weather is warm, it is even more urgent to clean game quickly. A simple way to cool an animal is to buy bags of ice and put the bags in the cavity. Place birds or small animals in a cooler with ice.
     Properly handled, game should not have a strong taste. Poor flavor can be due to inadequate bleeding, poor dressing, improper cooling and the wounds themselves
     Several factors affect the natural flavor of game. Venison tastes as different as pork or beef. Each has its own distinctive flavor. How old is the animal? What is its condition? These also affect the flavor. The best meat comes from healthy, alert young animals rather than those that are sluggish or hot from running.
     Game birds and animals forage for food and their muscles may develop more connective tissue than domestic animals. Game meats are apt to be drier and less tender than domestic animals, but richer in flavor.
     Because wild game exercises more than domesticated species, you may need to cook meat by moist heat. Both stewing and braising (which is simmering in a covered pot with a small amount of liquid) work well. Here’s a quick and easy recipe you can try with venison.

     Quick Oven Steak
2 lb. steak or roast
1 pkg. dry beef-flavored mushroom mix
     Sprinkle both sides of meat with mushroom mix. Lay on heavy-duty foil. Wrap loosely, but make airtight seal using double fold in foil. Place in 375°F oven for 1 hour or until meat registers 155-160 degrees F. on a thermometer.
     For more information on the proper care and handling of venison, game birds and fish, contact Penn State Cooperative Extension at 963-6842.

Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension of Lackawanna County.