Be prepared for incoming venison: Part 1
When venison is filling up the freezer, ensure it is safely preserved.
Hunting season is here and many Michigan residents are filling their freezers with venison. Some families are lucky enough to harvest more than one deer, if this is the case they need to make sure they have taken steps to safely prepare for the storage of this product.
If the plan is to freeze wild game meat, make sure you have rotated any older product in your freezer.
Some guidelines to freezing meat safely
- Trim fat to reduce strong flavor changes that can happen during freezer storage.
- Package meat into portions your family will use.
- Freezer burn can damage meat (and other products) very quickly, invest in moisture/vapor proof wrap, such as heavy waxed freezer wrap, heavy-duty aluminum foil, or freezer bags. Always use food grade packing materials.
- When packaging, make sure all air is removed.
- Label and date.
- Do not overload the freezer. Do not stack unfrozen packages on top of one another; until they are frozen (the middle packages won’t freeze as quickly and bacteria can begin to grow). Dial the temperature down to accommodate the extra product you are adding.
- Overloading can also prevent air circulation in a freezer. This can cause a freezer to work harder or not well at all. Allow for good circulation for quick freezing.
- Recommended storage times for wild game held at 0 degrees Fahrenheit:
- Ground game meat – 2 to 3 months
- Roasts and Steaks – 8 to 12 months
- Stew meat – 2 to 3 months
This is important to note if you are putting more than one deer in your freezer each year, these storage times are based on quality, not food safety. Issues like flavor change, freezer burn and appearance begin to break down the meat. All food in a freezer continues to slowly break down, a freezer is not a “dead zone” that can hold something forever. Michigan State University Extension recommends processing your catch safely. Enjoy your hunt and the rewards from your harvest by safely packaging venison.