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Iowa hunters encouraged to keep food safety in mind this hunting season

DES MOINES – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and Chuck Gipp, director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, are encouraging Iowa hunters to follow proper field-dressing and handling procedures this hunting season to ensure they are able to enjoy safe and high-quality meat.

“The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship oversee the local locker plants that provide processing for many hunters throughout the season. Following best practices in the field can help make sure you are able to enjoy safe, high-quality meat,” Northey said.

“Iowans look forward to hunting each year and the sport continues to gain great traction,” said Gipp. “We hope that hunters will heed these practices to ensure safety and enhance quality of their game.”

Best practices:

Plan ahead – If a hunter is planning to take a deer or other game to a locker or other facility for processing, it is recommended they call or talk to the processor beforehand to ask how they prefer to receive the meat.  Many processors prefer to receive the whole, hide-on, field-dressed carcass as the hide protects the meat during transport.  Hunters should take their deer to the locker as soon as reasonably possible for best safety and quality.

Act quickly – It is important to field-dress game promptly after harvest, ideally within a half-hour. A game animal's body begins to decompose within one to two hours of death, especially if temperatures are unseasonably warm (above 40 degrees).

Proper equipment – Wear disposable gloves and use clean knives and utensils, both to keep the meat clean and to protect you from the animal's blood.  (There are several illnesses which hunters can acquire from the blood of an infected game animal).

Proper containers – If you will be boning out the carcass yourself, be sure to use food-safe containers to store or transport the meat.  Clear plastic, “zipper-lock” style bags (found in the food-storage section of most grocery stores) are food-safe, available in large sizes, and will not leech chemicals or cause off-odors or flavors. Do NOT use plastic garbage bags or other containers not designed and approved for food-storage to store your meat.  Plastic garbage bags are NOT food-safe and may have been treated with scents, deodorants, or other compounds meant to reduce odors and discourage pests.  These compounds can leech into your meat and cause off odors, off flavors, or safety issues.  Processors are well within their rights to refuse game meat delivered in unsafe containers.

Disposal – Iowa law allows lawfully taken game carcasses and waste from home meat processing to be disposed with other residential waste, although your solid waste hauler may have some restrictions regarding the maximum size or weight of an individual bag. The waste should be sealed in plastic bags in lots that are similar in size and weight to a typical bag of residential waste.

No Dumping – Dumping a game carcass in a road ditch or on other public property creates a nuisance and is subject to enforcement under Iowa’s littering laws.

More information and a guide to proper field-dressing can be found at https://extension.psu.edu/proper-field-dressing-and-handling-of-wild-game-and-fish

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