PROPER FIELD CARE FOR WILD GAME MEAT
By Brad Fitzpatrick
Hunting not only provides us with enjoyable experiences in the field and memories that can last a lifetime, but it also provides valuable protein for the freezer. Game meat is an extremely healthy option because wild game is generally low in fat and contains no artificial hormones or antibiotics that you’ll find in mass-produced commercial livestock. In addition, there are a variety of wild game animals that each offer their own special flavor, from dove breasts with bacon or jalapeno, and goose jerky to elk tenderloins and more. There are even a growing number of elite chefs who specialize in the preparation of wild game.
When you have an animal down in the field, it is absolutely essential to know how the meat should be properly handled for consumption. Meat that is improperly handled is liable to spoil, and that’s a terrible waste of a valuable natural resource. Here are several tips on how to properly prepare your meat so that it goes from the field to the freezer and the table in prime condition.
HAVE THE RIGHT TOOLS
Before you even walk out the door to hunt, you need to be sure that you have everything you’ll need on-hand for proper meat transport.
- Quality Skinning Knife—one that is not so large that it is overly bulky yet is sufficient to allow for basic field care. There are a variety of great blades out there from companies like Buck, Benchmade, Ontario Knife Company, Gerber, Cabela’s and others.
- Saw—if you’re planning to quarter the animal in the field, and folding pack saws work well. There are also kits available such as the Outdoor Edge Game Processor that contain multiple knives, sharpeners and saws in one convenient package.
- Game Bags
- Latex Gloves
KEEP THE MEAT CLEAN
Keep your meat free of debris and waste, both from the animal itself and the surrounding area. Be careful not to puncture the gastrointestinal tract. Immediately remove the guts entirely, placing them well away from the meat. Make sure that the hide contacts the ground, not the meat itself.
COOL YOUR MEAT
Cooling meat quickly helps slow bacterial growth and reduces the risk of contamination. This is why it is important to field dress the animal as quickly as possible, especially on warm days. Have a plan to get your meat cooled quickly, either by taking it to a freezer facility or immediately hanging the meat so that the temperature drops. Cooling game meat should be your first priority when you leave the field, and after butchering be sure that the meat is immediately chilled.
Lastly cook and eat. Enjoying your harvest at the dinner table with friends is priceless.