Sales of hunted venison is a no-go

By now, most hunting enthusiasts have “bagged” at least one deer for the season.  Though many elect to process their deer at home (here in Central PA, it is often a family event!), yet others opt to take their deer to a processor.  Many of these are custom processors with no inspection, yet there are some USDA inspected plants that custom process deer.  Some even go so far as to essentially cease their other operations during deer season.  Regardless of where or how cut/processed/[insert verb], none of that venison can ever be sold.

How is it, then, that you can sometimes purchase venison in a restaurant?  It is very likely farmed venison that has been slaughtered and processed under some sort of inspection.  Sorting through various barriers and regulations, this can be accomplished with either or USDA or FDA monitoring.

In most states and municipalities, donation of hunted venison to food banks and similar charitable organizations is permitted.  In Pennsylvania, Hunter’s Sharing the Harvest is a successful program. However, there are some places where this is not permitted.  It’s a donation.  Money should never exchange hands.

Who enforces the “no sale” of hunted venison?  There is a mix of responsibilities between your game commission, food sanitarians, and food safety inspectors, though the latter two often seem to have less to do with it.  Whether it’s jerky, summer sausage, or fresh product, retail sales of hunted product is illegal.

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