With thousands of Minnesota deer hunters preparing for the start of the firearms season this weekend, the Minnesota Hunter Harvested Venison Donation Program is once again gearing up to provide hunters with the option to donate venison to help feed hungry Minnesotans.
The venison donation program is operated by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and state food shelves. The program provides a source of protein to people in need while helping reduce local deer populations. Minnesota hunters donated 556 deer to the program in 2010, which provided 19,725 pounds of processed venison to Minnesota food shelves.
To be eligible to donate venison to the program, hunters must have their deer processed at a state-registered meat processing plant that has agreed to participate in the program. A list of processors can be found on the “In The Spotlight” section of the main MDA website at www.mda.state.mn.us. Hunters are strongly advised to contact the processor before bringing in a deer to make sure they are still able to handle the animal.
Only entire carcasses with the hide attached can be donated. Cut and wrapped meat will not be accepted for donation. Hunters and processors must also adhere to specific standards designed to prevent food-borne illness. Processors may only accept carcasses for donation that are:
– Free from signs of illness;
– Field dressed with the hide intact;
– Free of visible decomposition or contamination; and
–Properly identified with a Minnesota DNR registration tag.