Hunting season is well underway.  Countless hopeful men, women, and children dressed in camouflage and bright orange have ventured into the wilderness in search of wild game.

Like livestock, deer, elk, wild pigs, and other game can carry pathogenic bacteria like E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Campylobacter jejuni.

Proper processing can help keep food safe after a successful hunt, and the Michigan Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DNR) have set out to inform hunters of precautions to take to keep meat safe from field to fork.

“Part of the hunting heritage in our state is the fact that when you are a successful hunter, you are providing food for your family to enjoy,” said Rebecca Humphries, DNR director, in a press release.

“I encourage all hunters to follow these guidelines and to seek out processors who are licensed and inspected by MDA so that food handling and processing is done in a safe manner.”

Hunters should take precautions to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).  Minimize handling and cutting of the brain, spinal tissue, and lymph nodes of any animals killed during a hunt.  Remove fat and connective tissue while boning-out meat from deer.  Heads, legs, and other body parts must be properly disposed of in a licensed incinerator or buried in a licensed landfill.

Those who hunt in or near Bovine Tuberculosis areas should wear gloves when field-dressing wild pigs.  If the lungs, ribcage, or internal organs from wild pigs look abnormal–with multiple tan or yellow lumps–the carcass should be taken to a DNR disposal site to prevent disease transmission to other animals.

Always cook wild pig meat to 170 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any parasites that may be present in the animal.

Anyone preparing their own venison should follow standard food safety practices.  During processing, meat should remain at or below 41 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria.

Meat that will not be consumed within five days should be frozen. Ground and fresh venison and other wild game should be cooked to a proper internal temperature to kill pathogens.

Meat used for jerky should be heated to a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit before it is dried.

Always follow common food safety practices such as washing hands, utensils, and food contact surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after handling meat.

Anyone with food safety-related questions regarding wild game should consult the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Hotline.

Source: Hunters: Remember to Practice Safe Processing of Wild Game.  Michigan Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources.