How to Process Deer Meat at Home

Prepare, process, and package your deer meat from the field to enjoy in a variety of ways on the plate.

Adobe Stock/HLPhoto

In “How to Field-Process a Deer,” I described how to field-dress, skin, and debone a deer in the field. Once the meat is home, it’s time to process and package it for both the freezer and the table.

If this is your first time processing a deer, don’t feel intimidated. Preparing venison at home isn’t difficult. It doesn’t require knowing the names of every muscle and cut, or buying a bunch of expensive supplies and equipment. Instead, it involves learning the basics of how and where to cut, and a modest investment in supplies. As with many other DIY activities, you can start with a small amount of equipment and add as your operation expands. The basic equipment costs about the same as processing a couple of deer at a butcher. Add some family members or hunting buddies, and processing becomes a community activity. Once all the work is done, it’s satisfying to sit down to meals that you’ve prepared from the field to the table.

Preparing to Process

There are a few steps to take before processing at home. First, check your local wildlife regulations for hunting and processing, and follow them. Second, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for testing and handling deer with chronic wasting disease (CWD). I test every deer for CWD and, until I get the results, handle it as if it has CWD. Third, make sure that anything that contacts the meat is clean. This includes hands, knives, and workspaces. Finally, keep the meat processing area as cool as possible to reduce the chance of bacterial spoilage.

Photo by Tammy Biswell

You’ll also need to gather basic processing equipment and supplies, which include:

9/15/2020 9:09:07 PM

Steve, You are correct. Deer do not have gall bladders. I've processed many animal's livers and just got it wrong when I wrote that section. Thank you for reading the article and taking the time to add your comments. Congrats on nearly 60 years of deer hunting! I hope you have many more! Dennis Biswell

9/2/2020 11:26:21 AM

This article contains some misinformation, it says remove the deer's gallbladder, deer do not have gallbladders, I have hunted deer for close to 60 years, and have heard this comment different times, but it is not true. Horses are another mammal that does not have a gallbladder.

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