Handling venison safely during harvesting and preparation key to stemming foodborne illnesses

Hunting season starts soon, and we want to make sure we safely prepare any meat that we bag. Can you share some tips on how to do so?

Knife cutting crown in venison steak. Photo: Getty Images.

Deer hunting season in Ohio begins tomorrow, Sept. 28, and runs through Feb. 2, 2020. Last year, hunters in Ohio checked 172,040 white-tailed deer, and more than 250,000 white-tailed deer the prior year, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.

With that in mind, it’s important that any venison derived from hunting be handled safely to avoid the spread of foodborne pathogens, which could cause foodborne illnesses. Venison is meat from wild game such as deer, elk, moose, caribou, antelope, and pronghorn.

Pathogens such as E.coli, salmonella, and toxoplasma are typically found in the intestines of wild game and can be easily transferred to the meat during butchering. Safe food handling during the butchering process will reduce the risk of consumers developing foodborne illnesses from these pathogens, according to Melinda Hill and Treva Williams, both educators in family and consumer sciences for Ohio State University Extension.

“Parasites and tapeworms are also commonly present in wild game,” they wrote in Freezing and Canning Venison, a recent Ohioline fact sheet.

Ohioline is OSU Extension’s free online information resource and can be found at ohioline.osu.edu. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“One common parasite is Toxoplasma gondii, the cause of the disease toxoplasmosis,” they wrote. “Symptoms of illnesses caused from consuming parasites can range from mild discomfort to severe illness and possibly death. To destroy the parasites, you can freeze the meat for 24–48 hours or cook it to an internal temperature of 160 F.”

Other tips Hill and Williams offer to safely handle unprocessed venison include:

  • Ensure that all venison is chilled within three to four hours of the kill, if hunting on a day when the temperature is over 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Refrigerate the carcass as soon as possible, for best quality. Please note that freezing it when unprocessed could cause the meat to toughen.
  • Cool the carcass quickly by filling the cavity with bags of ice.
  • Keep the carcass in the shade, with good air circulation, from the time of the kill until the time of processing.
  • Cover the meat with ground pepper and cheesecloth to help deter flies.
  • Avoid covering the meat with tarps or wrapping it tightly in any material that could hold heat, as doing so could cause the meat to spoil.
  • Do not tie the carcass to the hood of a vehicle or keep it in the trunk during transport.
  • Keep the temperature of the meat between 34 F and 37 F from seven to 14 days during the aging process, which is the process used to tenderize and enhance the flavor of the venison.
  • Do not age meat that was harvested during warm weather or was not kept chilled, as the meat is not safe for human consumption. Also, if the animal was severely stressed prior to the kill, if the gunshot wound was extensive, or if the animal is under one year of age, the quantity of usable meat will be reduced.

“If you decide to home process the venison, whole cuts of venison may be stored in the refrigerator for three to five days (at 40 F or below) before canning or freezing,” they wrote. “Ground venison may be stored in the refrigerator for one to two days (at 40 F or below) before canning or freezing.”

Many options for potassium

My doctor told me that I need to increase my potassium intake, but I’m not the biggest fan of bananas. How much potassium should I have daily, and what are some other foods that are good sources of it?

Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte that people need as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Potassium is vital because it regulate your body’s fluid balance and controls the electrical activity of your heart and other muscles. It also serves several other functions in the human body. It lowers blood pressure, decreases the risk of stroke, supports bone-mineral density, protects against loss of muscle mass, and reduces the formation of kidney stones.

Consuming a high-potassium diet has been linked to a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, said Pat Brinkman, educator, Ohio State University Extension.

“Potassium helps maintain normal blood pressure by reducing the effect of sodium, but about 90% of the population in the United States consumes more sodium than recommended with only about 3% meeting the recommendations for potassium,” Brinkman wrote in Potassium, a recent Ohioline fact sheet.

Ohioline is OSU Extension’s free online information resource and can be found at ohioline.osu.edu. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

According to guidelines from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science, people ages 14 and over should consume at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily, she wrote. Children ages 9 to 13 should consume 4,500 milligrams of potassium daily, with children ages 4 to 8 requiring 3,800 milligrams daily. Recommendations for toddlers ages 1 to 3 years old are 3,000 milligrams daily.

The best way to get the potassium your body needs is by eating a variety of potassium-rich foods daily, Brinkman wrote. There are, however, precautions you need to consider, she said.

“If too much potassium is consumed, it is normally excreted from the body without any problems,” Brinkman wrote. “Some medical conditions such as kidney disorders or heart arrhythmias may require limiting potassium consumption.”

Here are some foods that are high in potassium:

  • Baked potatoes (with the skin)
  • Beet greens
  • Beans (including white, soy, and kidney)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Salmon
  • Orange juice
  • Swiss chard
  • Mackerel, halibut, and tuna
  • Non-fat or low-fat milk (chocolate or white)
  • Spinach
  • Avocados
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots

Brinkman also suggests these methods for increasing your potassium intake:

  • Consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, including some high-potassium fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables for snacks.
  • Drink non-fat or low-fat milk, or consume non-fat or low-fat yogurt, as each of these items contain 300–400 milligrams of potassium.
  • Include beans and legumes in your meals. If buying canned beans, buy no-salt-added canned beans, or drain the liquid from the can and rinse the beans to reduce the sodium. You can also choose to cook dry beans or legumes.
  • Prepare sweet potatoes and potatoes with the skin on them, to get the most potassium.
  • Include lean meats such as fish, chicken, and turkey in your diet.

Fall vegetable options plentiful

Homemade Organic Green Collard Greens with Pepper and Ginger

I love to eat seasonal produce such as strawberries in the spring and sweet corn in the summer, but besides apples, I’m not sure what’s in season now. Can you tell me which fruits and vegetables are seasonal in the fall?

Your question is very similar to another that was asked in a “Chow Line” column from September 2017, so it’s best answered by reissuing that column here.

Fall is a good time to start looking to buy pears, apples, and hard squash, among many other seasonal fruits and vegetables. In fact, those are some of the items that many grocery stores typically start to promote heavily at discounted prices in their grocery aisles, according to the National Retail Report, a weekly roundup of advertised retail pricing information compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

While improved technology and agricultural innovations mean that consumers can access fresh fruits and vegetables year-round, fruits and vegetables naturally grow in cycles and ripen during specific seasons. When ripe, produce is fresher and typically has its best taste. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are also typically cheaper to purchase because they are easier to produce than fruits and vegetables that are grown out of season.

So how do you know which fruits and vegetables are in season?

To find seasonal foods near you, try using the app and website developed by Grace Communications Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for sustainable foods. The app compiles data from the USDA and the Natural Resources Defense Council on over 140 varieties of produce to show users which fruits, vegetables, herbs, and nuts are in season on a state-by-state basis.

Called the Seasonal Food Guide, the app and website allow users to check which produce is in season in half-month increments in each state. Other sources to check for what’s in season include the USDA Seasonal Produce Guide, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and Ohio Proud, among others.

While this is not an all-inclusive list, generally speaking, the following produce (among others) is in season in Ohio in the fall:

  • Apples
  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard Greens
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Grapes
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Peaches
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkins
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries
  • Spinach
  • Summer Squash
  • Turnips
  • Winter Squash

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.