Improving White-tailed Deer Utilization – Part 1

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The first White-tailed Deer of the season, image from Instagram

I killed two white-tailed deer this year, field dressed and hung each to age a bit, and then took them to my processor to be made into cuts (steaks, chops, roasts, etc.), ground venison, and sausages.  I also helped my friend Jacob to get his deer processed, and it was during an exchange between us and the processor, that the processor mentioned that the amount of meat typically returned to his customers, as a fraction of hanging weight, is approximately 35%.  When recently picking up the meat from a 1/2 steer (grass fed) that Geri and I had purchased, that processor told me that the yield for beef is typically 70% of hanging weight; of course they have been bred to maximize meat production.  Still, I found the 35% yield from white-tails to be too low, unacceptably low in fact; if I am going to take the life of an animal I want to use as much of the animal as is possible.  With that in mind, I established the following goal in the 2016 Year in Review post:

Homestead BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) 2017 – Butcher, process and preserve at least one deer, on the homestead; improve utilization from 35% of hanging weight to >=60%

That means that for 100 lbs of hanging weight, I need to utilize another 25 lbs of the animal.  Hanging weight by the way, is the weight of the carcass after it has been field dressed, i.e., after all of the entrails have been removed, the guts, heart, lungs, liver, back fat, etc.  This will be a multi-part post, unknown in number, but at least three are in mind at the moment.  For this first part, I will put to use the lungs, heart, and liver.  The weights of these organs were: heart 1 lb 7 oz, lungs 2 lbs 1 oz, and liver 1 lb 15 oz, for a total of 5 lb 7 oz.   For my second doe this year, hanging weight 106 lbs, this will increase utilization from 35% to 40%.  Obviously I have much further to go, but it is a start.

The liver and heart can both be utilized as human food of course; Geri makes a liver Pâté, which is very nutritious and tastes great as well.  She freezes the Pâté in bite-sized pieces, and then wraps those in plastic wrap; a perfect snack.  The heart can be ground into the Pâté mixture, too, or it can be cooked up as most any other muscle meat.  As for the lungs, well, Geri came home with a container of treats for the dogs more than once, imagine that, and one of the containers contained dehydrated beef lung.  That got me to thinking, why not deer lung?

For this deer, Geri decided to dehydrate the heart, liver and lungs, for dog treats.  Works for me, and we were down to our last couple of stored treats for the dogs so the timing was perfect.

It helps to freeze and then partially thaw, especially the lungs and liver, before cutting into 3/8ths to 1/2 inch slices.  Lay the slices out evenly in the dehydrator, as pictured in our Excalibur dehydrator.

Bottom to top, lung, heart, and liver, before drying

Dry thoroughly, Geri dried at 155°F (the “jerky” setting) for 22 hours.

Bottom to top, lung, heart, and liver, after 22 hrs at 155°F

After drying, Geri usually packages the treats in ziplocks, this time I used 1/2 gallon and quart canning jars.

Completed treats, the pups love ’em!

If you hunt, and have dogs, a rare combination I know, your dogs will thank you!

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All the best,

John

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