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Foods -- Meat and Poultry

Venison from a freshly killed animal should age in a cool place for 1-2 weeks. Does a cooler with ice qualify as a "cool place?"

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The major reason for aging venison is to make the meat more tender. Aging is done by hanging the carcass. It allows the meat to cool further and to make the subsequent butchering process easier. The general recommendation is to hang the deer for one to three days. Older deer require a longer aging time. While hanging, the body cavity should be thoroughly cleaned. Soak a clean cloth in a saltwater solution of 1/2 cup salt in one gallon water, wring it dry and wipe the inside of the cavity of the deer with this damp cloth. If the inside of the body cavity has been contaminated by the contents of bladder, bowel, intestine or stomach or with unclean water, mud or dirt, thoroughly rinse out the body cavity with water. When the cavity is clean, thoroughly dry the inside with cloth or paper toweling. The meat must be maintained at a temperature below 40 F, preferably between 35 and 37 F. The deer may be hung with the hide on or the hide off. When the deer is hung with the hide off, the meat tends to dry out and discolor. This makes cooking more difficult, and the outer edge of the meat develops a dry, hard crust that must be trimmed before freezing or cooking. Leaving the hide on protects the meat, but it also makes skinning more difficult. Hanging the carcass for more than one day during which the meat temperature exceeds 40 F will also cause an objectionable gamy flavor or spoilage, even if the carcass is thoroughly cleaned. Therefore, a cooler would not be an acceptable place to age the deer. However, it would be acceptable as a short-term solution to keeping it cold.

PREPARED BY: Angela M. Fraser, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Food Safety Specialist, NC State University in July 2004

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