Saturday, December 1, 2012

Processing Maine Deer Meat

When you shoot a deer, how do you prepare it for the freezer? Some hunters simply get their deer tagged, haul it to a deer meat processor and call it good. Some like to hang their deer for four or five days prior to taking it to a processor or cutting it up themselves. There used to be many deer meat processors in Maine, but over time the numbers have decreased. I’m told most processors who gave up deer cutting did so because state regulators made it almost impossible for them to financially comply with demands of inspections associated with state imposed rules and regulations. The problem for most who were also in the business of beef, pork and other commercial meat processing. There are still some deer processors in Maine. One I visited this fall is Thibeault’s Deer Cutting in East Harpswell, Maine owned and run by Pat Thibeault with the help of her son Vincent for the past 13 years. The business was purchased from the Pinett family on Rt. 196 in Topsham, Maine where the operation was run for 40 years. Vincent worked for them for 10 of those years. Thibeault’s has a clean and efficient operation in the spirit of an assembly line. A big walk in cooler and a freezer keep your deer, bear and moose in good condition. A staff of 10 workers efficiently moves the meat along quickly; skinning, cutting, grinding, packaging, labeling, cooling and freezing. Only six workers fit into the meat cutting area at one time. When you arrive, they can tag your deer as an official, state tagging station. Ones tagged your deer is logged into a computer system, hoisted and weighed by a conveyor rail system that takes the deer with all it’s information attached into the cooler to wait it’s turn to be butchered. The conveyor system looks like a beef processing operation at Chicago meat packing plants. The goal at Thibeault’s is to process one deer every 15 minutes. That doesn’t always happen, but it’s pretty fast. The cost of having your deer processed, packed and frozen varies. Charges may include skinning, boning, vacuum packing, capping, sausage making, addition of fat for burger and other charges. An example of cost for a 150 pound deer, boned, packaged and vacuum packaged would be $91 with a yield of about 63 pounds of venison meat. That’s a pretty good bargain in my book. A chart of their charges can be seen on their Facebook page on the internet. Other deer butchers are listed on the internet here:

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