Hunters can help feed the hungry in Michigan

The Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger program helps food pantries provide meat to the food insecure.

A whitetail deer.
Photo: Wade Syers, Michigan State University Extension.

Michigan’s firearm deer hunting season begins November 15 and runs through November 30. During the hunting season, Michigan State University recommends that care be taken when harvesting deer so the meat may be donated. For food safety reasons, care of the carcass is very important. Clean and sanitary utensils need to be used when dressing the deer to prevent cross-contamination. Putting down a new plastic drop cloth will assist in a clean area for dressing the deer.

Once the carcass has been gutted and the entrails disposed of properly, the interior of the carcass needs to be cooled below 41 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent foodborne illness bacteria from growing. Cool, clean potable water may be used to help cool the interior and wash away any visible contamination. The carcass needs to be packed with bags of ice to keep the meat cool. Tie the cavity closed with appropriate ties or ropes. The hide needs to be left on to protect the meat from possible contamination. During transport the carcass needs to be kept cool, protected from dirt and soiled water and out of the sunlight. Take the carcass to the processor as soon as possible to prevent foodborne illness bacteria from growing.

A hunter may donate a harvested whitetail deer to the Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger (MSAH) program. It is the mission of the organization “to coordinate the efforts of sportsmen and sportswomen in Michigan and Michigan based licensed wild game processors to feed the hungry in our state.” This all-volunteer organization works with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the State of Michigan to assist in providing harvested whitetail meat to food banks and food pantries. 

There are two ways hunters may donate the meat. The first way is called Give-A-Pound. The hunter who has the meat processed at a participating processor may donate a pound or more of the processed deer to the program. The meat is then distributed to local food banks, pantries and shelters.

If a hunter would like to donate a whole deer to the program, the whole deer needs to be dropped off at the participating processor.  The participating processor will process the deer at no cost to the hunter. The processor turns the deer into venison burger. The venison burger is then distributed to the local food banks, pantries and shelters. This process allows the hunter to help feed neighbors who may be food insecure. Another way outdoor recreationists can help support this program is to make a monetary donation when purchasing a fishing or hunting license. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources fishing and hunting license vendor should ask if you are interested in donating to the Sportsmen Against Hunger fund, at which time the monetary donation may be made.

Taking steps to prevent cross-contamination helps to ensure the best quality meat is being donated. For more information on ways to make your pantry services safer, visit Michigan State University Extension’s for Food Pantries website. 

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