Why You Should Process Your Own Wild Game
My Personal Experience:
This is a true story and just happened spring of 2021. We took a group of clients on a transport black bear hunt to Alaska, we all harvested bears and butchered them ourselves right on the boat.
I was fortunate enough to harvest a beautiful, fat boar and transported him in tact (didn’t even field dress him) from shore back to our 65’ fishing vessel we were staying on. I “field dressed, skinned and butchered him 100% on the boat. I was meticulous on keeping him clean. I had also made a perfect double lung and heart shot, so no gut content was spilled inside the cavity.
I took out the backstraps and tenderloins, which are surprisingly small, compared to the size of the animal. I broke down both hind quarters into individual muscles and I packaged and vacuum sealed the meat right on the boat. I left the front shoulders whole, but put them in game bags along with the neck meat and any other odds and ends that were left over. Everything was stored in a cool clean environment for the remainder of the trip.
I took all 100 pounds of my bear meat to a processor our transport outfit had recommended for wild game meat processing. They had some outstanding bear salami on board and I wanted some to have at home. When we arrived at the processor, they said they could use both front shoulders and the neck meat for the salami but that they would also freeze and ship my packaged, butchered meat at the same time.
So fast forward to arriving home and anticipating receiving some excellent bear salami along with the different cuts I had butchered myself. Disappointment does not begin to describe my feelings when I opened the box, expecting to see 100 plus pounds of bear meat only to see 18 pounds of Salami! My first thought was, maybe there is another box on the way, let’s call the processor and find out.
Here is the explanation I received, “I just spoke with the butchers and they said the meat you brought in was too dirty to use so they had to use your packaged meat to make the salami”. I promise you, both hind quarters of raw meat weighed more than eighteen pounds, not to mention they would add about 30% fat to make the salami!
Remember me telling you, I butchered the entire bear on the boat? The meat from the bear never touched the ground and went straight to bags and then to storage.
The lesson? This would have never happened if I did it all myself. You never know what you are going to get or in this case NOT get from a processor when you let someone else take care of your wild game meat processing. To be fair, not all processors are like this, like in any industry there are good and bad.
Below are some reasons and benefits for handling wild game meat processing yourself.
Wild Game Meat Processing Is Easier Than You Think:
I just started processing all of my wild game myself in 2019. Like most people, I thought it would be very difficult and take too much time. If I’m being honest, I was also intimidated by the thought of doing it myself. I didn’t know the difference between an eye of round from a flat iron, hell for that matter, I didn’t even know where they were located.
Once I started learning from Chef Albert and then researching on my own, it was way easier than I had anticipated. How many times in your life have you started something new you’ve been afraid of, only to realize it wasn’t near as bad as you had built up in your mind? That’s how wild game meat processing was for me. A little instruction, some research, a few good tools and I’m on my way.
You Know What You Are Getting:
Just like my surprise when I opened my box from the processor, you never know what you are going to get when you leave it to chance.
One of the first things I learned from Chef Albert, is “taste begins in the field, not in the kitchen” what he meant by that is: be meticulous with keeping your game clean while in the field. If you drag it through a field, leave hair on the meat, or spill gut content in the body cavity, guess what it is going to taste like?
When you butcher and process yourself, you know without a doubt you are getting 100% of your animal back. A processor takes in hundreds of animals in a season, there is no guarantee you are getting your animal back and I promise you, not everyone is going to be as meticulous as you are. Our friends at MEAT give you a pretty good example of what I mean. https://youtu.be/drqg2tRJIVA
My son, Eddie, and I have had a blast learning about wild game meat processing together. In fact, we both agree it is our new favorite part of hunting and has given us a new connection, not only to our food but to hunting as well. We are now involved in every aspect of where our food comes from, literally “From Field To Table”.
You don’t have to spend a large amount of money to have the tools you need to process wild game at home. Here are my basic must-have tools and then you can expand from there. The Outdoor Solutions team uses processing equipment from the guys at Made With Meat. You can order here. Made With Meat
- Sharp boning knife
- Cutting board
- Vacuum sealer
The best advice I can give you is just to start. There is a ton of information out there on the web and videos on YouTube. The worse thing that can happen is that you learn from making a mistake but still have some great organic protein in the process.