By Andy Densereau
In many years hunting and butchering animals for myself and others, the lack of respect for the meat of an animal never hit me until I opened my own wild game butcher shop. I hear several people complaining about the taste of wild game or refusing to try it because someone else had a bad experience with it at one point in their life. These same people will spend $25 a pound for wagyu beef that was imported into the country. Granted Wagyu is good but wild game is 100% organic meat. The difference between the two are you!
People spend thousands of dollars on gear, what’s new on the market, what will better their odds on a successful hunt. You scout, dream, and prepare all season long for that one opportunity to take home some meat or your dream. After you take that shot and get to the animal what do you do? This is where a lot of people lose it. You may gut and drag, use the gutless method, use more traditional methods, or you may just grab your harvest and throw it in your truck. However you do it, here are some helpful tips to help the flavor of that animal.
- Shot Placement is everything: No matter how great of a shooter you are, if your shot is iffy than simply don’t take it. If you make a bad shot on an animal and it’s going to take a while to expire, this will affect how the meat is going to taste. The animal is stressed. Stress equals tension, therefore your meat may end up a chewy strong taste.
- Don’t push a wounded animal: If you’re following a blood trail and you find your animal, instead of assuming its dead and walk directly at it sit down and watch to see if its still breathing, or moving. If it’s still alive, find a way to stay out of sight. This will allow the animal to settle down. If you can get close enough without it seeing you and bleed it out than do so but most likely you wont be able to. I know its in our nature to put the animal down as quick as we can but sometimes it’s more damaging to attack it for the second time.
- Getting the heat out: This is probably the most crucial. The longer the heat sits in the meat, the easier it will be for the meat to spoil or sour. We’ve all heard of bone sour and heat sour. These two things will affect your meat more than anything. Bone sour is when the meat spoils from the inside out due to heat being trapped inside the meat. Heat allows bacteria to grow and if not taken care of immediately, your meat won’t be salvageable. Heat sour is opposite. Heat sour comes from just under the hide and is external going into the meat. The faster you can get the hide off and the meat cooling the better that animal will taste.
- Clean meat: Obviously you don’t want to eat dirt. I have seen some carcasses come in that were broken down beautifully but it looks like they were kicked down a mountain. Do your best to keep the hair off the skinned carcass (unless you like the taste of hair). As a butcher, hair and debris are the worst and puts me into a foul mood. It transfers onto everything and gets stuck to gloves. Even if you’re not breaking the animal down in the field, slow down while skinning and gutting. Keep everything as clean as possible and this will help with less waste and an overall better taste.
There are several ways to skin a cat, or in this manner a game animal. These are just some helpful tips for you to ensure the best quality meat you will ever put into your mouth. In this day and age there are videos, forums, and just asking if you don’t know but still want the best experience you can produce. Its not always the butcher’s fault, we’re not magicians (although I like to think that I am with a butcher knife in my hand). Its absolutely in your hands to have the very best outcome on your experience and the quality of your meat.
-Andy Dansereau, Get Your Meat, LLC
I’d like to thank Andy and Get Your Meat, LLC for providing this article and offering insight on the topic of meat care. If you’d like to learn more, check out the link below to listen to the episode we recorded last summer. If you’re in the Boise, ID area, definitely give Get Your Meat a try for your butchering needs! -Jim Huntsman