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Old July 16, 2011, 05:24 PM   #1
Art Eatman
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Meat Handling of Game Animals

From HogDog's "Recipes" thread:

To begin with we are going to start 2 new threads. One will be a recipe thread and the other will be a meat handling thread.
The meat handling thread will be for every tip or question regarding from the time the game is down to when it is thawed...

The recipe thread is everything we do from thawed to plate... I know there is a bunch of folks with way more skill in both subjects than me and I have learned a bunch over the years from forums from these folks.

Each will be a single thread and each submission will be done as "replies".

********************

So: Field dressing, general handling, sanitation, butchering...
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Old July 17, 2011, 11:58 AM   #2
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Thanks, Art and Brent. Great idea.
Hunting hogs in Texas has taught me there are few things more important than a couple of good, sturdy sharp knives and a saw. Also keep it clean and get it cold asap. A 250# or smaller hog fits nicely in a 100 qt Igloo with plenty of room for ice-after it's skinned out and quartered. I bone it and package it when I get home using quart and gallon Ziploc freezer bags and a Sharpie...and another good sharp knife or two. I package the hams, loins and tenderloins whole or in halves, bone out the shoulders, ribs, neck and other bits into chunks to be made into stew or sausage. I keep the meat as cold as possible (above freezing) for easier and safer processing. Label area on bags is ideal for description of contents and date. Nothing against commercial processing, I've just found it's not worth the hassle and expense. It's a job I enjoy doing and I'm proud of my results.
All the details are better covered elsewhere by folks much better at it than me but the above tips make things easier for me and result in a safer and easier to use "product". I process deer the same way, just not as often.
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Old July 17, 2011, 12:13 PM   #3
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Packing the gut cavity with ice is a godsend in hot weather.

Freezing a few gallon jugs of water helps save a few bucks and lasts far longer than the barely froze ice from stores. Stick 1-3 of these in the gut and make sure you have ice between and on top of the legs/hams too.

In my heat and humidity and FLIES.... If my meat ain't in a cooler and chillin' in under an hour, it is already hung and gettin' processed.

Brent
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Old July 17, 2011, 12:16 PM   #4
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Having your animal processed commercially....

Quote:
I've just found it's not worth the hassle and expense.
Particularly the expense.

That and you may not get your animal. I took 30 lbs of venison in to our local butcher to be ground and mixed 80/20 with beef tallow ...... after several weekly attempts to pick up my burger, only to be told "not ready yet" ... I went down and asked for my order. The guys at the counter wheeled out a giant cart of frozen 1 lb. deer buger packages, counted out 36 for me ..... it was take or leave it.

I grind my own now.

My best butchering tip (aside from sharp knives and a good steel) is a Sawz-all for quartering ...... get a new blade at the beginning of the season, and wash and dry it with your knives. Makes things SO much easier. Other than that, keep the meat clean and cold (below 40* but not frozen).
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Old July 17, 2011, 12:49 PM   #5
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Quote:
My best butchering tip (aside from sharp knives and a good steel) is a Sawz-all for quartering
I will attest to the Sawz-all. Great for when you have several animals to process in deer camp.

There are times when running water is not accessible. We use an "insect sprayer" bottle to clean the body cavity of blood, clots, bone bits, vegetable matter, ect. Of course it was purchased only for this job and has never had anything other than water in it.



Using a vacuum sealer has prevented a lot of wasted meat. Kept in a old deep freeze I can keep game for years. I don't use the kitchen freezer to store my game. To much temp variation.
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Old July 17, 2011, 02:04 PM   #6
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Stripping the paint off my sawzall blade with wire wheel or even Easy-Off seems so much more sanitary and butcher-esque...
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Old July 17, 2011, 08:44 PM   #7
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A Sawzall is nice, but I prefer a good hand saw, or bone saw. You have more control over the cut and the bone chips. In addition, a good pair of lopping shears works very well for removing legs from smaller big game (Antelope, White tail, etc. - chopping straight through bone or joints).
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Old July 19, 2011, 06:34 PM   #8
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Excellent idea by HOGDOGS to have this posted up as a reference.....

The FDA mandates that those of us in the wholesale seafood business participate in what they call a HACCP program. While that is a typical ugly government acronym the process it stands for is useful, and not just in our industry but any time food is being processed.

The basics of it are that you should assess your potential hazards (H) and then analyze (A) where they are most likely to occur and then determine were the critical (C) control (C) point (P) in the process is.

In essence you think through what it is you are going to be doing, determine which part(s) of the process is/are the most likely to damage or make unsafe the food and then address those points aggressively.

From reading the responses so far it's almost as if the majority of us have read the FDA manual. We know that at the top of the list is to get the animal cooled off as quickly as possible and we also know to be diligent in protecting it from contamination. We know too that when storing it we have to be carefully of what we store it in and for how long we store it.

We seem to have the basics down.

With that, (And do understand that in our business we toe the line even if we know the line is unreasonably restrictive..... because a law suit would be the end of it all. ) it is still worth noting that even at elevated temperatures meat does not spoil as fast as we may imagine.

This is not to say that you may not damage the eating quality or that you may not significantly reduce the number of days that it can be stored after it is processed. Because both of those things do happen when bacteria gets a running start, but these unwanted occurrences are not the same as the meat being unsafe.

The mantra in our industry is "time & temperature" to keep product safe for as long as possible. The same holds true with what we shoot.
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Old July 19, 2011, 09:08 PM   #9
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I strive for low temps for two reasons. One is safety, the other is that grinders and knives work better that way. Overdid it a bit last time, water froze on the tailgate while I was butchering the hog. Had to process the meat before it froze solid (inside the ice chest!) outside in my pickup the next day. In Texas. Hard to believe after day 19 of triple digit heat.
Glad to hear a pro chime in, I think most of us who are serious about game feel we have to be a bit more careful than the pros. Wild hogs present special challenges and cautions but I take the same precautions with domestic pork and chicken. Most of us don't have a facility that we can wash down completely before and after each job but we do the best we can.
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Old July 20, 2011, 06:40 AM   #10
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bswiv is the guy to brain pick.

And as he said, rot and less quality handling are not one in the same.
I was shocked to find out that the "nice" ol' fashioned ham we bought was handled in ways I would never conceive to be acceptable handling practice.

I researched for a nice recipe for this ham as I never bought a "dry cured" ham before. These are the ones in a cloth sack hanging in the meat section.

So I first learn that these hams are "required" to be cured for a minimum number of days (like 40 or more days or something longer) at some un-godly high temps (like 80*+) with more humidity than I would have thought (40% might be close) just to "qualify" for the title of "Genuine Smithfield", "Country" and a couple others I cannot immediately remember.

Sure, I know we had certain practices before refrigeration or the in depth knowledge of the germs, but I wouldn't have thought these were still in place.

This particular style of ham is the extremely salty and tough stuff needing boiled first to dissipate some of the salt and to soften the meat.

Lucky for me we also had a turkey for Christmas supper. All of that ham got portioned out for use in various bean dishes etc...

And to be quite frank and honest... This ham from a known meat producer using domestic swine from known sources tasted far more "GAMEY" than any pork from ANY FERAL swine I ever handled or cooked...

It makes an excellent meat for the beans and the stronger flavor really shines in this use. Some "wet cure" ham is basically just a texture and color difference since they lack in flavor.

Brent
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Old July 21, 2011, 03:23 PM   #11
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Urine bladders...
Since I always heard it will taint the meat if leaked, I try and try to be delicate and careful when gutting the deer or hog down.

I prefer if possible to hold a small coffee can or other vessel under the bladder and just pierce it to drain it rather than have it leak no matter how careful I try to be...

Brent

Last edited by hogdogs; July 21, 2011 at 03:50 PM.
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Old July 21, 2011, 03:37 PM   #12
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hogdogs That's a great idea you have. For game I usually dress and cut it small enough to fit into a large cooler and Ice it down until I get home. When I get home I drain the ice, ice the meat down let the ice melt all the way and drain it and repeat the process for 3 days, then I rub morton's tender quick, 1 tablespoon per pound of meat. Then I keep it chilled in the cooler, fridge or freezer until I'm ready to use it. Ive tried all kinds of ways to preserve meat and its one of the best ways Ive discovered other them smoking it. I use the salt cure regularly to keep meat preserved for reenactments, just wrap the meat in wax paper and its ready to go in my haversack. Only thing I have to do to cook the meat is rinse the meat and throw it on the grill or pan.
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Old July 21, 2011, 03:45 PM   #13
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Depending on the weather, skinning the animal ASAP is very important. When hunting antelope in northern NV in August (T shirts and shorts and WARM), it is imperative to gut and skin quickly, then get to a cooler. Do NOT use ice, rather coll mountain stream water is better - similar to treating a burn.

If it is the late deer season with cold temps, let it hang in the shade and get it to the cooler in a timely manner
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Old July 21, 2011, 03:55 PM   #14
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Quote:
Urine bladders...
Since I always heard it will taint the meat if leaked, I try and try to be delicate and careful when gutting the deer or hog down.
I've got the solution for that. I don't gut. I hang, skin, remove the backstraps, shoulders, and then hams. Whatever is left isn't worth fooling with. If I really want those two little tenderloins I can make a cut along the ribs and reach my hand in to get them. The gut sack never gets opened.
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Old July 21, 2011, 03:56 PM   #15
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Build your own LOW budget walk in meat cooler for processing.

A feller I know in Mo. built one inside a portion of his big metal shop building. I will get the details of the components used but basically he bought a decent size window shaker A/C unit and modified the mechanical control system with low cost commercial cooler parts. He can cool it down VERY WELL such as under 50* in summer.

I will be getting the specifics shortly (may be a day or 4) to share.

Brent
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Old July 21, 2011, 04:00 PM   #16
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Quote:
Whatever is left isn't worth fooling with.
Doyle, I am aware of many (especially in the south) that do it like that... but I can cut many meals worth of meat from the discarded carcass.

Ya'll gotta remember, I am the guy who tries to get my overall game meat cost down to under a dime per pound so ever ounce of edible meat is my target...

Between the ribs, neck meat, belly meat all adds up to more soups and stew meat.

But being a pork lover, I ain't dealing with so much "silver skin" as is found on venison.

Brent
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Old July 21, 2011, 06:02 PM   #17
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i'm killing hogs every week in this awful OK heat. When the temperature is 80 degrees F you have a maximum of four hours to get the meat cooled before it begins to go bad.

Earlier this week i killed two hogs in temperature that exceeded 100 F: At 100 degrees F hog meat will begin to rot in about 2.5 hours. Both hogs were quickly hung, field dressed and skinned. They were put whole in the old freezer on the back of my truck. That freezer contains 12 one gallon milk jugs full of ice.

BTW: Hog meat is not improved by hanging; even in cold weather, it will spoil. There is a local guy who butchers elk, deer and hogs on a part time basis in the fall and early winter. He is famous for letting hogs rot in his cooler.

IME: Most of the "strong tasting" hog meat that folks complain about is really rotten hog meat.
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Old July 22, 2011, 01:21 PM   #18
hogdogs
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Low Dough Walk-in Cooler Details... As Promised

Here are the details as written by the cooler owner...
Quote:
Okay, here's what I know.

2 walls and ceiling are constructed of OSB with 6" foam board insulation, the two remaining walls are 6" fiberglass insulation. Inside dimensions are 8'X12'x11'. We also put down a 2" foam board under the concrete floor before pouring it, and standard metal insulated door. I lined the inside with corrogated tin from an old barn roof for ease of cleaning and additional barrier.

The cooler unit is 220V 22000 BTU air conditioner. Now if you can find an older one without the digital thermostat it makes things easier, but it can be accomplished with a digital style too if the installer knows what they are doing. I don't know the name or type of thermostat but my buddy that installed it works in HVAC and said it was just a $60.00 commercial thermostat.


In temps like we have now, 95 degrees and high humidity 70% or higher I could probably get the temps down to 45 degrees with some work. I've found during the hot months I have to gradually take the temp down and allow the inside to cool sufficiently and pull as much moisture out as possible before I take it down a few more degrees. During early fall when temps are 75 to 80 and lower humidity (50% or lower) I can usually have it down to 36 degrees in an hour or so.

The A/C unit we have probably isn't big enough for the size of the cooler we have, if you went with a smaller cooler size a 22K conditioner would work much better. Nothing wrong with over sizing the unit, it's just going to cool it down faster and make it work a lot less.

I'll try and post some pics, I should be heading down over the weekend.
Brent
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Old August 4, 2011, 01:45 PM   #19
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Gettin your rabbits dressed and cooled down fast- All out of a backpack.

hogdogs put up a very helpful post about bring full gallons of frozen water to stuff in the gut cavity of deer after shooting.

I do the same with my rabbits, only I use small 16oz frozen water bottles (used plastic soda bottles work great too). They are better than brining out a large ziplock bag of ice (I always get leakage in my backpack, and more ice melts than the solid block of ice in the bottle).

So here's what I pack in my medium sized backpack for a nice early morning or late afternoon rabbit hunt.

-Little three piece Smith and Wesson "Bulls Eye" knife set. $20 on sale at Big 5 Sporting Goods which included a nice little heavy clever for head/leg removal, a small thin incisor knife to start my skinning/gutting grove, and a medium sized knife which makes splitting the hips clean and easy.

-one small cutting board

-3 to 5 small bottles of frozen water (depending on how many rabbits I plan on taking home)

-One large gallon for water for cleaning rabbits/knifes and cutting board.

-5 to 8 plastic grocery for double or triple bagging guts/heads/legs. I do not leave these bits on the ground or bury then in the field, as this would attract more Coyotes to my hunting ground. Also, many non-hunters hike through this area as well.

-2 or 3 large ziplock bags for the rabbits.

-One or two small bottles of cold water, and a can or two of soda which I pack next to the frozen bottles in a plastic grocery sack so I have cold drinks throughout my hike/hunt.

-Small lunch and/or some trial mix (pack trail mix next to frozen bottles if it contains chocolate chips in order to avoid sticky melted mess).

I have all I need for a fantastically relaxing day in the hills with no mess/clean up at home. Toss my knives/cutting board in the dishwasher when i get home. The wife is happy, and so am I

Last edited by PoorRichRichard; August 4, 2011 at 02:58 PM.
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Old August 4, 2011, 02:40 PM   #20
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I was watching a TV show the other day and they featured a new type of insulated portable game back. Essentially, you freeze bottles of water (as in soda bottles, etc) and it fits into this flexable insulated bag that folds up relatively small (the size of a suitcase when filled with frozen water bottles). When you kill your deer/hog you gut it out, stuff the cavity with some of the frozen bottles, put the animal into the bag, toss in the other bottles, and zip it up. The expanded cooler bag looks to be big enough to hold a medium sized hog.

Looks like it would work best for someone hunting off of a 4-wheeler where he couldn't hold a standard cooler easily.
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Old August 4, 2011, 02:50 PM   #21
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Deer meat

Have to share this with all who hunt deer and either process their own deer or take it to a processor. After years of deer both processed by ourselves (pops and I) or by other processor we started only going to this one processor...even though he is an hour or more away from our main place we hunt here in Indiana (He's in MI). The reason was because after years of thinking we loved venison we were shocked with how much better that first deer we took to him was than any of the other deer we'd ever had...

Why was it though? Well we've become very good friends with the guy and he shared with us the biggest mistake a lot of people make with deer meat:

They hang it for hours, a night, a day or days....

The absolute worst thing you could do he said. He learned from an old time butcher that deer are the same as I believe it was goats and sheep (but don't quote me on it, I'll find out for sure) that the second their bloodline has stopped they start to rot from the inside/bones out...unlike beef where the belief is to hang it to cure it in order to taste better.

We've since introduced numerous hunters to this guy and they will never go back to another processor ever again...also the buddies of mine who do their own meat have since tried to clean the deer as quick as possible and they were amazed at the taste difference!

He also debones everything and never touches a saw...because cutting the bone would partially defeat the purpose of cleaning it quickly.
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Old August 4, 2011, 02:54 PM   #22
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Doyle

Do you happen to remember the brand/name of the bag you wrote about?
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Old August 4, 2011, 03:28 PM   #23
Doyle
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Quote:
Do you happen to remember the brand/name of the bag you wrote about?
Sorry, but no. It was on a show where they shot a hog during warm weather.
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Old August 10, 2011, 08:30 PM   #24
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This guy is lightning with a knife and deer. He debones an entire carcass in less than 8 minutes. I never thought I was fast, but I never realized how slow I am processing my game.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xijmge8_NJw
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Old August 17, 2011, 04:04 PM   #25
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I agree with tynimiller about getting the bone out of the deer. I never heard his reason before. I always thought that the bone marrow held the laurel and cedar bitterness in it. Either way, it does make a difference. I started doing it because hunting out of state forced us to cut up deer in camp. Now I never leave the bone in. We quickly cut big chunks off the deer and put them in 2 gallon freezer bags and then in coolers. I have meat in a cooler for 5-6 days before I cut and trim it. It makes your hands numb when you finally get to cut it up. Just watch your coolers and if it is real hot keep draining and adding more ice.
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