For many small meat processors deer season is a very busy time of the year. Venison processing can be very profitable if you manage it correctly. Before the start of each venison season it is appropriate to review your procedures and pricing from the previous year and determine if there are any changes that you need to make.
Costs and Margins
You should review you costs associated with venison processing and know what your margins are on each of the venison products you produce. There is no point in producing products that are not profitable. If you need to adjust prices, do it. I suggest you come up with a printed price list you can share with customers. Be prepared to explain why some products cost more than others.
Review Your Product List
Today’s consumers like products that are convenient. Many people like products that are pre-cooked or ready-to-eat (RTE). There is also an increasing interest in fresh meats that are pre-seasoned and ready-to-cook. Look at the list of products you have processed in the past. If some are low volume and/or low profit, don’t be afraid to discontinue them. The more value you add to a product (such as cooking and/or seasoning) the greater should be your opportunity for profit potential. Don’t be afraid to charge for the value you add to your venison products.
Popular Venison Products
Some popular venison products include:
- Snack sticks and summer sausage: Traditionally these products are produced as fermented shelf stable products. However, for wild game processed venison products I suggest you consider producing them as keep refrigerated, acidified products. These style of products have very good texture and the distinctive tang of reduced pH products but are much easier to produce.
- Coarse ground cooked smoked sausage: This can be made in a variety of flavor profiles including old fashion, black pepper, cheese, and jalapeno and cheese.
- Fine ground products: By using a final grind size of 1/8 inch you can produce very nice old fashioned frankfurters, trail bologna and ring bologna.
- Fresh coarse ground products: Customers enjoy the convenience of seasoned patties with different flavor profiles including Salisbury steak, onion steak and barbeque.
Packaging and Labeling
Many venison customers consume their venison products over the course of several months. For maximum safety, product quality and product shelf life I suggest freezing venison products and furnishing each venison customer with a venison product fact sheet that tells them to store their products frozen using raw products within 2-3 days of thawing and cooked products and ready-to-eat products within 5-7 days of thawing. Recommend cooked products (such as smoked sausage) be reheated to 165˚F and that raw products be cooked to 170˚F. A simple fact sheet given to your venison customers will help assure they get maximum enjoyment from their venison products and will be great advertisement for your company.
Notes on Venison Processing
- Most venison processors trim off the majority of the venison fat and add back fatty beef or pork trim. This added fat helps improve the juiciness and flavor in the finished product.
- Process cooked venison products to an internal temperature of 170˚F. This not only kills pathogenic bacteria that are present but also kills a higher percentage of the spoilage bacteria. The way that venison is harvested and transported to the processing plant often provides the opportunity for a high load of spoilage bacteria.
Remember: Don’t limit your challenges. Challenge your limits.