Are deer safe to eat?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question,” Are deer safe to eat?”. We will discuss the risks of eating deer. We will also look at how to clean and cook deer meat safely.

Are deer safe to eat?

Deer flesh (also known as venison) and most body parts are safe to eat and use. However, any portion of an animal that appears unwell, has died from unclear circumstances or has contracted chronic wasting disease (CWD) should not be handled or eaten.

What is CWD? 

Deer can be affected by chronic wasting disease (CWD), a brain and nerve system disorder.

CWD is a member of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) family of illnesses (TSEs). While it shares some characteristics with diseases that afflict cows and sheep, CWD is currently exclusively known to infect animals of the deer (cervid) group. These animals die from CWD.

As long as the deer is healthy, it is completely safe to eat.

How to safely hunt and clean deer?

  • Deer that appear unwell should not be shot, handled, or eaten. 
  • To reduce the danger of disease spread, have your deer processed in the same location where it was harvested.
  • When field-dressing deer, use rubber or latex gloves.
  • Handle the brain, spine, eyes, spleen, tonsils, and lymph nodes only as much as is required.
  • Hands, knives, and other equipment used to field dress the animal should be thoroughly washed, and tools should be disinfected by soaking them in a mixture of 50% bleach and 50% household water for an hour.
  • Examine your deer for skin problems, such as ulcers and unhealed wounds. Fighting deer can sometimes injure each other using their antlers, resulting in wounds that travel to the spine and contaminated flesh.
  • Hang your deer: One of the most important steps in the deer meat preparation procedure is to hang it upside down, generally overnight. This aids in the redistribution of blood inside the tissue, which aids in the preservation of the meat.

How to safely store deer?

  • Keep the meat cool: You should chill that meat down so it doesn’t breed any more bacteria. Keep your deer as cool as possible by keeping them out of direct sunshine.
  • The best way to store deer meat is to vacuum-seal it and store it in a deep freezer. Because frozen venison can last up to a year, make sure you label and date it before you process it. Venison should be kept frozen until it’s time to cook it. Venison that has been properly packed can be frozen for up to 9 months.
  • Never refreeze defrosted venison to avoid quality degradation. Always defrost venison in the refrigerator or microwave. Venison that has been thawed by the microwave should be used right away. Venison that has been thawed and refrigerated can be kept for up to two days before cooking and eating.
  • Prepare unfrozen venison within 2-3 days by storing it in the refrigerator (40° F or less). To minimize cross-contamination, keep raw venison apart in the refrigerator from other ready-to-eat meals or components. Raw meat should be kept on the lowest rack of the refrigerator to prevent juices from dripping onto other meals.

How to safely cook deer?

  • Marinate the venison in the fridge. Marinades should not be reused.
  • To avoid cross-contamination, thoroughly wash and rinse all raw meat preparation surfaces and utensils before using on cooked or ready-to-eat dishes.
  • Cook the venison fully before serving it hot or cold. To ensure that dangerous bacteria are destroyed, deer should be heated to at least 165°F. When it comes to deciding when venison is cooked right, the coloring of the flesh is not a good indicator. Monitor the venison’s cooking temperature with an accurate, calibrated thermometer.
  • The characteristic wild flavor of game animals, such as venison, is typically linked to the fat content of the animal. To avoid a “gamey” flavor, trim visible fat and add other moisture and protein sources.

What are the different ways to cook deer?

Enjoy it on its own: Due to its limited fat content, venison becomes quite tough when overcooked. Medallions and tenderloins, for example, are best-served medium-rare (135°F).

Some individuals like to combine deer with a fat source, such as pork. However, any meat blended with pork should be cooked to a temperature of 165°F. 

Venison makes for juicy burgers and hearty chili. You can also prepare a deer bone broth using the bones.

Look for your favorite venison recipe here.

How to know if deer have gone bad?

Spoiled venison shows the following signs. 

Color: Good venison is a deep brownish-red color, whereas rotten venison is often greenish.

Texture: The texture of good venison should be robust, as well as silky and slippery to the touch. The decaying process has begun if the venison appears loose or has begun to fall apart.

Smell: Bad deer can smell rotten, even sewage-like, while fresh deer smell gamey and clean.


In this brief guide, we answered the question,” Are deer safe to eat?”. We discussed the risks of eating deer. We will also look at how to clean and cook deer meat safely.