Ethical Hunter

Food Friday: What Should Venison Taste Like?

venison loinToday at work we had a discussion about what makes some venison taste better than other venison. It’s an age old discussion; do corn-fed deer and swamp monsters taste different? Do fawns taste better than old bucks?

Probably a little. Each individual animal might taste a little different. But the truth is most pallets can’t discern those subtle differences.

Yes, fawns are more tender than older deer, but that is because of physical differences in the muscle fibers. Basically, the fibers are smaller and have less collagen holding those individual fibers together.

The truth is, most differences in the taste of individual pieces of whitetail venison stem from handling and cooking the meat. While the fat and silver skin of beef and pork might taste just fine, whitetail fat and sinew are off-putting. The key to really good venison is carefully removing all of the extras.

Cooling the meat quickly to prevent the growth of bacteria is also important.

Also, if you can drop the deer on the spot, it will not work those muscles and build up lactic acid in the muscle. Lactic acid is formed when the muscles are extremely active and the deer is not taking in enough oxygen to supply the movements. Inside the cells, sugars such as glucose, fructose and sucrose are converted into cellular energy and the metabolic byproduct lactate. This is referred to as anaerobic cellular respiration. If the animal were to live, the lactic acid would eventual dissipate. However, when the animal dies, the lactic acid becomes locked in the cells. It produces a sour taste.

The truth is, properly handled, carefully trimmed venison from ANY deer tastes great, whether that deer is an old swamp buck or a young corn-fed fawn.

For more insights on whitetail venison, check out THIS ULTIMATE COLLECTION of venison resources or our new Gut It, Cut It, Cook It downloadable resources.

5 thoughts on “Food Friday: What Should Venison Taste Like?

  1. John

    I agree that a deer that succumbs quickly and cleanly is the best scenario.I belive the most inportant is that the animal is gutted and cooled down and the meat cared for properly after the shot. In the old days butchers in my area cut everything up on a bandsaw and all that marrow and fat and sinew thru the meat didnt help any. My butcher now de bones everything and seperates the different muscle groups and is very careful to get as much fat and sinew off the meat. he uses a better grade of beef fat after butchering cows but only mixes a little bit into the hamburg and sausage. Also my belief is if you cook any game meat until well done you turn it into shoe leather. I also belive what the animal eats makes a huge difference. here at home in MA there is not many farms and the deer exist on woody browse and acorns and some grazing. Where I hunt the farm country of New York they eat alphalfa, corn, and soy bean and the meat is much more tender and tastier. I also think a doe or yearling or younger deer means a great deal vs an old rutted up buck. Thats why I dont hunt for antlers but for meat.Also gut shot deer that take a long time to die or left overnight on a bad hit usually succomb to sepcis and thats basically blood poisoning and the meat is not as good. Neither is the meat from an old 6 or 7 year old deer or again a stinky rutted up buck in november.

  2. Rich

    with hundreds of deer and many pounds of meat consumed I can tell you that you can tell a woods deer from a farm fed deer
    living in pennsylvania most of my life , deer in the big woods had a chance to munch on laurel which makes them very strong but a corn , oats , alfalfa fed deer is just like a corn fed steer

  3. StillHunter

    Good post. I take all of my deer straight to a good butcher. They all taste the same to me.

  4. Brandie

    I have to disagree. We have been taking deer and eating venison all of my life. While proper handling makes most venison quite tasty, a swamp fed buck in rut can be almost inedible, no matter how you handle it. In fact, while in college, a friend took a deer and gave it to us. The deer was killed in a cedar swamp and was a well-aged buck in rut. Even as poor starving college kids we couldn’t eat the meat. It was terrible even though it was killed quickly and properly handled just like all of our other deer.

  5. pgchambers

    I have lived and hunted in both Texas and Wisconsin, and trust me, it does not take a discrening pallet to tell the difference in the venison.

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