Pros & Cons of Processing Your Own Wild Game

If you are thinking about processing your own game, here is a small list of some pros and cons to consider. But if the sight of blood makes you queasy, you’re better off taking it to a processor.

Pros

If you really want to learn how to process wild game, there is a plethora of information out there from videos, books, classes, etc.

Books
We recommend the following books:

The Complete Venison Cookbook by Harold W. Webster, Jr
This definitive book on venison cooking addresses virtually every aspect of venison processing, preparation, cooking, and preservation.  There are over 700 venison recipes for steaks, chops, roasts, and ribs, plus chilies, stews, stroganoffs, meat loaves, burgers, and much more. In addition, the book has more than 250 recipes that complement venison, plus recipes for canning, drying, sausage making, smoking, pickling, and preserving.

Butchering of Livestock & Game by John J. Mettler, Jr., DVM
This guide takes the mystery out of butchering, covering everything you need to know to produce your own expert cuts of beef, venison, pork, lamb, poultry, and small game. Dr. Mettler Jr. provides easy-to-follow instructions that walk you through every step of the slaughtering and butchering process, as well as plenty of advice on everything from how to dress game in a field to salting, smoking, and curing techniques.

Classes
For a fee, several butcher shops and community colleges offers courses on basic butchering. If taking a course is not in your budget, a processor may be able to put you in contact with a veteran hunter to show you the ropes.

Videos
A good starter video is by Deer Meat for Dinner titled, How to Clean and Quarter A Whitetail Deer.  (Don’t worry, the deer has already been gutted.)

It’s Affordable
If you want the processor to skin your deer and butcher it into edible portions, you could pay anywhere between $200 and $300 per deer. If you skin and quarter your own deer, the butchering may cost between $100 and $200.

Control Over the Product
You control the quality of meat from start to finish. By processing deer at home, you control the final product. You can cut, package and label each steak, sausage or package of ground venison to your liking.

Education
For some hunters, this is the most important reason and primarily why they do it themselves and it teaches the younger generation where their food comes from. You also gain the know-how of processing deer, and therefore the anatomy of other animals. Since animal anatomies are similar, processing a deer will help you if you decide on processing other wild game. For more information, see our blog, Guide to Venison Cuts.

Cons

Time Consuming 
It takes time to process a deer. Depending on the size of the deer and how much meat is on it, the process can take up to several hours to days. There are several steps such as: field preparation (removing the entrails), the aging process (24 hours after rigor mortis has stopped), skinning and lastly, the butchering process.

It’s Messy
It makes no difference if you’re butchering space is big or small, organized or thrown together, butchering ANY animal is messy. Like we mentioned in the beginning, if the sight of blood makes you queasy, you’re better off taking it to a processor. Butchering is not for the squeamish at heart. Enough said.

It Can Be Expensive
Investing in good knives is always a good idea. Some go as far as purchasing a separate knife set just for processing. Aside from knives, you’ll need some kind of butcher block or sturdy table big enough to accommodate whatever you’re processing. Tarps, plastic wrap, butcher paper, tape, large freezer bags, aprons, towels, butcher’s twine, freezer space or ice chests are some of the items you’ll need.

Final Thoughts

Whatever you decide to do, just remember that this animal gave it’s life so you could feed your family, honor it.