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Food Safety
Wild Game Food Safety

Capt. Clark
Christmas Wednesday 25th December 1805

We would have Spent this day the nativity ofClean Work Area
Christ in feasting, had we any thing either to raise our Sperits or even gratify our appetites, our Diner concisted of pore Elk, So much Spoiled that we eate it thro mear necessity, Some Spoiled pounded fish and a fiew roots.

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The first step in processing wild game is to follow safe food handing practices.  These safety practices are the same for both domestic and wild meat.  However, wild game is not subject to inspections by federal or state programs; therefore, it is up to you and equal care is necessary.   In each step of  food preparation you should:

Wash your hands and working surfaces often
Prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw meat and juices separate from cooked meat
Cook to proper temperatures to destroy bacteria, and refrigerate promptly.

If the meat has been frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator, in cold water or in a microwave.  Do not set it on a counter top to thaw because there is a potential for bacteria to grow as the meat thaws.  If you are going to marinate the meat, place it in a covered container in the refrigerator.  Refrigeration will prevent bacterial growth.

All game meat, fish and bird must be stored and cooked at safe temperatures to keep food safe from bacteria that cause food borne illness.

Bacteria grow rapidly between the temperature of 40-140 degrees F.  
For short term storage in a refrigerator, make sure the temperature is less than 40 degrees F.  
For long term storage in a freezer a temperature of 0 degrees F will be safe.  
Cooking temperatures will vary depending on the type of meat and cut but in general, internal temperatures should be between 145 - 170 degrees F.
For more information on cooking temperatures go to Washington State University food safety website.

In general, following good food safety practices that are recommended for domestic animals will be adequate for wild game.  However, improved management of feeding practices for domestic animals has resulted in a decline of diseases and less safety concerns for diseases such as trichinosis in domestic pigs.  This is not the case for wild animals and trichinosis has been found in wild hogs, bears, wild felines (cougars), and other carnivorous animals. In some cases trichinosis has been found in deer but this is rare and it depends on where the animal feeds.

To be safe, if you harvest an animal that is a risk for trichinosis, you should:

Be aware that freezing the meat will not kill the trichinosis larvae
Cook the meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F for a minimum of 15 seconds.

There are documented cases in Washington, Idaho and New Mexico where hunters have become ill with trichinosis after eating undercooked cougar meat.